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Schandl claims, however, that his cancer-profile test is so sensitive, it detects the presence of cancer much earlier than other tests. He's able to do so, he says, because he measures the levels of six -- not just one -- chemicals with each blood sample. And, aside from detecting the presence of cancer, the test provides Schandl with "early warning signs" that, 10 to 12 years from now, cancer may develop. Part of Schandl's methodology is that he looks for chemicals other doctors don't even consider. For instance, he tests for levels of PHI, an enzyme that regulates anaerobic metabolism. The higher the rate of anaerobic metabolism, the quicker a cancer spreads, Schandl claims. So if a high level of PHI exists, along with high levels of two or three other chemicals, including hCG, cancer very well may develop down the road.
"Most doctors don't even know what it is," Schandl says, referring to the enzyme.
In fact most doctors, Vogel included, think the cancer-profile test is bogus.
Cerda, the University of Florida researcher, wondered why he'd never heard of Schandl or his diagnostic tool. He called Schandl's claim that he could predict cancer "akin to crystal ball gazing."
"This is something we've been trying to do for a long, long time, and no one's been able to do it," Vogel argued. "[Schandl] says he's done this on thousands of patients, but, in terms of where he's published his data and how solid his data are, it becomes highly suspect."
Both Cerda and Vogel wondered why Schandl's test had never been published in a major, peer-reviewed scientific journal.
"I haven't had time," Schandl contends. He did, however, offer a list of fifteen research articles he's written for scientific journals, including three on the cancer profile. Two of the three were published in German journals, however, and Schandl said he couldn't find a copy of the third.
As soon as Schandl makes a diagnosis, he instructs a cancer patient to make lifestyle changes and begin taking dietary supplements and herbal ingredients, which, he says, "can reverse the malignancy process."
Typically he tells patients to take a tablet form of the hormone DHEA, which he calls an "immune enhancer." He also suggests high doses of vitamin C and the herbal supplement echinacea, which Schandl claims prevent inflammations caused by cancer. LEF also recommends cancer therapy, which costs thousands of dollars a year and includes a seven-step program consisting of monthly blood tests, 12 nutritional supplements, and hundreds of herbs and mineral pills.
Mainstream doctors warn that "all-natural" alternative therapies may sound harmless, but in some cases they're not. DHEA, for instance, can cause hormonal shifts in women with certain forms of cancer. And echinacea comes from a flower related to ragweed, to which many people are allergic.
As a licensed nutrition counselor, Schandl is legally allowed to recommend dietary supplements to his patients. He's also a state-certified lab director, which allows him to conduct blood tests. Neither of these distinctions, however, allows him to diagnose or treat physical problems, according to Florida law. That right is reserved for physicians.
Schandl himself admits he walks a fine line. His resume states, in fact, that he is an M.D. Pressed on the issue, he admits, however, that he's not licensed to practice in the United States. The degree, he says, came from a university in Sri Lanka. But he refers to his clients as "patients," and LEF literature refers to him as a "doctor" whose cancer profile serves as "an early diagnosis, made possible by biochemical testing."
At the age of 60, Schandl is a short, compact man with a neatly trimmed mustache and slicked-back, graying hair. Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, he moved to California in 1956. In 1962, the year he began attending junior college, he received word from Budapest that his mother had died of leukemia.
Schandl says his mother's death is what inspired him to develop better diagnostic tools and treatment for cancer. He received a bachelor's degree in analytical biology from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1965, and two years later he got his master's degree in biochemistry from San Diego State University.
Schandl was then invited to study molecular genetics at Florida State University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1970. Schandl claims that the following year he was hired as an assistant professor of biochemistry at Nova University in Davie. But the university has no record of his employment. With a tinge of sarcasm, Schandl admits that Nova's administrators have probably chosen to forget him. While at Nova, he says, he researched viruses in a university building that was also home to a kindergarten program. As a result, administrators did not renew his contract in 1974, he adds.
Schandl claims he later became the chief of clinical chemistry at the now-defunct Community Hospital of South Broward, where he began developing what would later become his cancer profile. In the mid-'70s he continued his work at the Howard Hughes Research Institute, which, he says, was a part of the University of Miami.
But the Maryland-based research group has no record of Schandl. A spokesman said the institute did once have an administrative office in Coconut Grove, but it never provided funds for research in South Florida or anyone affiliated with the University of Miami.