Tullio Simoncini, an Italian ex-medical doctor, claims that cancer is caused by a fungus and can be cured with the administration of sodium bicarbonate. To explain the fungus, Simoncini also argues that cancer is due to “excess acidity” that allows the fungus free rein.
There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support these claims and there is good reason to believe that Tullio Simoncini’s treatment is dangerous.
In October 2007, a charge was brought against the Clinic for Preventive Medicine (CPM) in Bilthoven, the Netherlands. This clinic houses a mixture of small enterprises, where physicians and nonphysicians offer a great variety of “alternative” treatments. A 58-year- old patient with breast cancer who was treated at this clinic was admitted to the emergency department of the University Medical Center of the Free University of Amsterdam, where she died within a few days. The attending physician refused to sign a death certificate, because the patient had died from a non-natural cause. It appeared that Simoncini had treated her at the Bilthoven clinic with injections and infusions of sodium bicarbonate. The clinic medical director denied any involvement, but two tenacious journalists of the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant succeeded in finding out what had happened. The Public Prosecutor and the Netherlands Health Care Inspectorate have opened an investigation of the case.
Because one of us (SJJ) is fluent in Italian, we could extensively search Italian Web sites for information on Simoncini’s background. Currently living in Rome, he has been using unsubstantiated cancer treatments for 15 years. He calls himself a specialist in diabetes and metabolic diseases, but in 2003, his license to practice medicine was withdrawn, and in 2006 he was convicted by an Italian judge for wrongful death and swindling. This has not stopped him from continuing to provide his controversial treatments, not only in Italy, but apparently also in foreign countries, such as the Netherlands. He has appealed his conviction, but we could not find information on the status of this appeal on Italian Web sites.
Simoncini claims that cancer is “simply” an infection (il cancro è un fungo) caused by Candida albicans, an opportunistic fungus. He claims that this intruder causes formation of cysts and an uncontrolled cell division in several organs, such as the liver and lungs.
To eliminate fungal colonies, he administers sodium bicarbonate by intravenous infusion, by mouth, or even with intra-arterial catheters close to the tumor site. Simoncini claims that the tumors will become smaller and subsequently disappear completely in half of patients thus treated. He does not give any proof for this and has never published any data in a scientific journal. He also claims that the treatment is not dangerous, because sodium bicarbonate is also used in standard medical procedures. He fails to mention that this treatment is applied only in patients with definite disturbances of water and mineral metabolism and under meticulous clinical supervision. The highly concentrated solutions that he administers within a short period can disturb the mineral balance in the body and lead to serious and even fatal complications.
Based on expert reports of two physicians, the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate has concluded that Simoncini’s treatment is dangerous and should not be administered.
The infusion of sodium bicarbonate to vulnerable patients is hazardous and ineffective. This is the conclusion of two expert physicians who wrote reports on request of The Netherlands Health Inspectorate (Inspectie voor de Gezondheidszorg, IGZ). The IGZ asked them for advice when in 2007 a patient with cancer died in the Free University Medical Centre in Amsterdam after she had received sodium bicarbonate in a clinic in Bilthoven. Currently, the clinic has, under the pressure of the IGZ, stopped administering this therapy and will not restart it. In the meantime it has not been firmly established that the patient has died as a consequence of the sodium bicarbonate administration. The Public Prosecutor is still investigating this.
Based on the expert report, the IGZ has first of all reached the conclusion that there are no scientific data that justify the administration of sodium bicarbonate to patients with cancer for other indications than described in the official prescription information. There is no scientific proof whatsoever showing that this therapy cures or can slow its progress.
The IGZ concludes that the administration of sodium bicarbonate even has risks for patients with high blood pressure, patients with diseases of lungs, heart, or kidneys and for patients with cancer. This is certainly the case if a number of specific blood levels are not monitored daily before, during and after the treatment. The balance of the body can become completely disturbed when large amounts are administered. In severely ill patients, this may lead to organ damage. In sick people, there is in fact irresponsible health care if this product is administered without monitoring.
Given these risks and because there is no scientific basis for the effectiveness of sodium bicarbonate apart from the registered indications, the IGZ concludes that physicians should not apply this treatment. If physicians administer these despite this warning and/or the IGZ receives reports of cases thereof, the reports will of course be investigated, whereby the aforementioned considerations will play an important role. The IGZ will not hesitate to inform the Disciplinary Medical Board.
Rob Koene, M.D., Ph.D.
Sophie Josephus Jitta
This article is a modified version of an article originally published in Dutch on November 17, 2007 by the Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Association against Quackery). Dr. Koene is emeritus professor of Nephrology at the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Ms. Josephus Jitta is assistant professor of Italian language acquisition at the University of Amsterdam. Both are board members of the Association.