Personalised cancer care: tailored to your cancer profile
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
Growing up in a typical Asian household, when we got ill, my parents would exhaust traditional remedies first before capitulating to conventional drugs. They were firm proponents of avoiding drug dependency, a wise choice considering the unfortunate origins of the opioid crisis sweeping the world today. Although I hadn’t heard much of functional medicine until I visited Miskawaan Health Group’s luxe clinic in Gaysorn Tower, what I learned intrigued the small part of me that still avoided taking a Panadol too often. Functional medicine, I learned, was a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of a medical issue rather than the symptoms, using an individualised approach that takes into account each patient’s unique lifestyle, environment, and genes.
Miskawaan Health Group has not only made this their vision to treat most ailments, but, I was interested to learn, they were using functional medicine to provide safe, natural, and alternative treatments for cancer. Dr. Johannes Wessolly, the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Advisor of Miskawaan Health Group, who had been competently explaining the entire process so it was easy to understand for even a layman such as I, made sure to point out that they were not ‘healing’ cancer. “I cannot heal cancer!” he says emphatically. “The patient themself does it. I merely help them to do so, by bolstering their immune system and getting them the right nutrition.”
More than that, however, he talks about their duty to see the patients beyond just their diagnoses, and to provide a good quality of life for them. “Even people with Stage 4 cancer are entitled to a good quality of life instead of aggressive treatments that make them feel terrible. At that stage, they often have small goals that we help them fulfil. One patient wanted to see his daughter get married, but he couldn’t travel to South America,” he recalls. “It took 1.5 years until he was well enough to at least see his daughter, and he did!”
Born and raised in Germany, Dr. Johannes started as an anaesthetist in Tübingen University Hospital, which I later found out was one of a handful of lauded university hospitals in Germany which contribute to high-performance medicine, research and training.
When I asked what brought about the complete shift to functional medicine, and eventually led him to co-found Miskawaan Health Group together with David Boehm, he tells me his history of illness as a child: “When I was a child, I had a bad case of neurodermatitis. Then when I was 20, I got ulcerative colitis and I had that for 30 years, and was continuously treated with conventional drugs like cortisone and immunosuprresants. It was only when I turned 50 that I found out that I had food intolerances – nothing else! I went on a diet for six weeks, and everything was gone! I realised that there must be other people with a similar story as mine, and I found so many of them. From then on, I switched my thinking and my work completely.”
Subsequently, he started his own clinic, focused on prevention and nutrition. “Even back then, David Boehm was my patient,” Dr. Johannes recalls. “He’d come twice a year to get treated. Since I was close to retirement age, he asked me who would continue the treatments after I retired. I said I didn’t know, and that’s when he asked me if I wanted to open a clinic for holistic and functional medicine in Bangkok. And since I’m always interested in new things, I said yes, and the rest is history.” He spoke further to Masala about how Miskawaan Health Group provides their patients with personalised and tailored treatments that are safe, practical, and suit their needs.
Considering your background in Germany, why did you choose to open Miskawaan Health in Thailand specifically, and what eventually led you to focus on alternative treatment protocols for cancer patients?
The Asian context was influenced by David Boehm. Thailand, in particular, is very open to functional medicine, and we want to further these collaborations. In my clinic in Germany, I initially never intended to treat cancer. We treated a lot of people with auto-immune diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), rheumatism, and more. Then one patient asked us to treat the side effects of chemotherapy. That was my first contact with a patient with cancer – I prefer the term ‘patients with cancer’ rather than ‘cancer patients’ because of the stigma associated with the latter.
Soon, people asked me if we could treat cancer too, as we were already treating the side effects of conventional cancer therapy. So, we slowly pivoted towards that direction. Patients with cancer need to be seen as a whole person, rather than an assembly of spare parts. We need to leave behind the kind of specialisation where each part – whether it’s your bones, your brain, etc. – is put on a shelf, and each doctor is responsible for only one shelf, and nobody knows anything about the other shelves. I think that is fundamentally wrong, especially in the therapy of cancer. It should be a holistic approach.
We see the person as a whole. Aside from the cancer diagnosis, we ask, what else do you have? You have to consider the patient’s immune system, their gut microbiome, their psyche, etc. Next, we had to consider how to choose the therapies. In our case, we use safe and effective treatment protocols rather than conventional treatments like chemotherapy.
Can you elaborate on the “safe and effective treatment protocols” you introduced to your patients as alternatives to chemical, drug-focused treatments?
In classical oncology, treatment choice is a matter of statistics: for example, there are studies that show that for one type of cancer, 80 percent can be reduced by a particular drug. But what about the 20 percent? Moreover, in classical oncology, doctors often use aggressive therapies much too early, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, even when it’s not yet needed. That is what we want to avoid.
What we’re doing here is finding out which therapy works on this specific cancer, not just e.g. breast cancer in general. We have to leave behind the mindset that says that breast cancer is different from other types of cancer. Cancer cells have a certain characteristic and they’re often independent from where they grew first. We find treatments that work for each patient’s cancer, and nobody else’s. It’s very personalised. We have a lab that tests different therapies on each individual’s cancer cells, and we give a therapy programme based on the most effective therapies for that person. And of course, we try to use as many natural substances as possible, and we are extending this panel of therapies all the time. We currently have a panel of over 30 natural substances and therapies, and we can show which ones are reducing the growth of your tumour cells. Many of these therapies and substances have been used to treat ailments in India and China for thousands of years, and the leader of our lab in Germany has recently asked me if we can test more old remedies from India and China in the fight against cancer.
We are collaborating with young, ambitious researchers in Mae Fah Luang University; as well as labs in Germany and Bangkok; to research more ways that we can make infusions from these ancient plants. We can treat or heal cancer in Stage 1 or Stage 2 with these natural methods. If a patient comes to us with Stage 4 cancer, while you currently can’t heal it completely, you can at least stop it for a while and give the patient a good quality of life.
Can you provide examples of the proprietary therapies developed by your team? You’ve mentioned that most of the treatments are infusions, why choose that over e.g. oral therapy?
The problem with oral therapy is that the efficacy depends on your gut system, so we often use IVs. And of course, for me as an anaesthetist, I think the IV method is the only one that counts! [Laughs] But it’s true that you get the fastest success in treatment with IV infusions.
Apart from cancer therapies, we have infusions with a certain mix of amino acids and vitamins, many of which I’ve developed over the years. Firstly, we check the patient’s bloodwork and see what’s missing, and we provide them what they’re missing. This is the basis of our therapy, all of which is personalised to each individual. We have different protocols: for detoxification, sometimes for the psyche, for gut treatments, and many more.
You’ve also talked about the importance of giving people a good quality of life over just aggressively treating their illness. Could you touch on the importance of patient education and empowerment in your approach to cancer treatment?
I always ensure that the patients understand what’s going on and why we are doing a particular therapy. Many patients nowadays are eager to look up different symptoms and treatments on Google – Dr. Google is my biggest enemy! [Laughs] But it helps that patients are thinking deeply about what therapies are best for them. They may read an article or listen to a podcast, and they come to me and ask me about it, and of course I need to know better. It puts a certain constructive pressure on myself to be on top of any of the latest medical developments.
Times are changing. When my father was a doctor, his word was basically the law, and no one questioned anyone in a white coat. Now, more and more patients with cancer say that they don’t want to get chemotherapy, and they’re asking for alternatives. It’s our job to see if the patient is in the right stages for alternative treatments.
Looking towards the future, what are your aspirations for Miskawaan Health Group’s role in advancing cancer treatment and patient care, both in Thailand and beyond?
Thailand is traditionally a place that people go to for treatments, even before Miskawaan, and more than that, Thailand is the future. The government is very open to make Thailand the medical hub of the world, and also the hub for functional medicine. Compared to e.g. Germany, the universities here all have a department for functional medicine, and I’ve met so many young doctors, in seminars and beyond, who are very interested in functional medicine. I hope that we will soon be the spearhead of this kind of medicine, and I hope we have a bright future in Thailand.