Friday, August 20, 2021

#2479: Frank Arguello

Frank Arguello is a cancer researcher, MD and author, most famous for his promotion of “atavistic oncology” and “atavistic chemotherapy”, which is silly pseudoscience based on misunderstanding evolution and summed up in his book a book Atavistic Metamorphosis: A New and Logical Explanation for the Origin and Biological Nature of Cancer, which also resulted in his Atavistic Chemotherapy Clinical Trial™ (yes, that’s a trademark), a website and – possibly – an apparently ongoing (since 2011) “clinical trial” hosted in Mexico. He seems to have once been a real researcher, but doesn’t seem to have published anything serious for the last 20 years – that is, since before he started pushing his own, home-made, grand unified theory of cancer.


The fundamental idea behind Arguello’s hypothesis is that cancer is a reversion to a primordial cell type. That idea was promoted by a couple of physicists who did not realize that it was already acentury old, and just as silly now as it was a century ago, but which even if it had been true would not have provided any support for Arguello’s nonsense. Of course, Arguello can’t show much by way of other evidence for his thoughts, either, though he has … you guessed it: cherry-picked testimonials (and as is common with these kinds of quackery, we are of course not told what treatments the patients producing the testimonials actually did receive).


Going through the details of Arguello’s claims would require a bit of stage-setting; fortunately, it is done in detail for us here. Suffice to say, if atavistic chemotherapy worked as well as Arguello claims, it would be easy to demonstrate it with a few relatively small clinical trials for different tumor types – apparently, however, his treatments are so obviously effective that he doesn’t really recognize the need. That he instead offers vague testimonials and tours Canada and the US looking for patients (without revealing what his protocols are) should really tell you everything you need to know. And no, his results are not published in any peer-reviewed journals – ostensibly because he has no peers.


But of course there is a conspiracy: In his own eyes, Arguello is a brave maverick doctor standing strong against the forces of disinformation and darkness, and the reason atavistic chemotherapy hasn’t caught on isn’t that it’s bullshit contradicting well-established principles of biology and evolution based on 150 years of evidence, or because the hypothesis really provides no useful predictive power for treatment; no, it is due to the nebulous and nefarious workings of Big Pharma to suppress information, and the armies of shills they employ to try to discredit him. Following a familiar trick among pseudoscientists, Arguello even offers to face a “public challenge” by conventional oncologists to demonstrate the efficacy of his methods by treating a patient with stage IV breast cancer, based on criteria that are, in practice, impossible to meet (for instance because it requires the participants to be a reputable academic cancer center and the set-up of the challenge has no chance of passing anything that an ethical review board any such center would be bound to obey). Employing another familiar trick from pseudoscientists, Arguello does not respond well to science-based criticism.


Diagnosis: Pseudoscientific crank – really, Frank Arguello is a nice case study in the workings of pseudoscience and some typical pseudoscience tricks, threats and gambits. His antics might seem almost funny until you realize that he targets some of the most vulnerable and desperate among us.


  1. Yea, we wouldn't want to distract anyone from the proven cash cow cancer savior chemotherapy, would we?

    1. Chemotherapy works.
      Quackery does not.

    2. And I'm quite sure the Frank Arguellos of this world work pro bono.