Hypothesis. The importance of a histological diagnosis when diagnosing and treating advanced cancer. Famous patient recovery may not have been from metastatic disease


  • I. E. Haines,

    Corresponding author
    1. Medical Oncology, Cabrini Health
    2. Monash University Department of Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria
    • Ian E. Haines, Melbourne Oncology Group, Cabrini Medical Centre, Suite 45, 183 Wattletree Rd., Malvern, Melbourne, Vic. 3144, Australia. E-mail: iehaines@bigpond.net.au

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  • R. M. Lowenthal

    1. Department of Haematology/Oncology, Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Errata Volume 42, Issue 4, 480, Article first published online: 13 April 2012

  • Funding: None.

  • Conflict of interest: None.

  • Disclaimer: All clinical details in this manuscript have come from publicly available sources, which have been cited. We did not use or have access to any privileged material.


Over the past 33 years, mystery has surrounded the diagnosis and treatment of a very influential Australian patient. In the long gap between amputation of his leg for osteogenic sarcoma and successful treatment for widespread tuberculosis, he was told he had advanced and incurable metastatic sarcoma. Details of his recovery and the treatments used have been extensively described. An alternative hypothesis is advanced to explain his recovery. This hypothesis is advanced for two reasons. The first is to underline the modern recognition of the need to consider diagnostic investigations, including biopsy, before assigning the diagnosis of advanced cancer to any patient. This principle is especially vital in cases where two diseases can present in the same way. The second is that there a risk that if diseases are incorrectly labelled, incorrect treatments may be given. This can lead to misleading interpretations being made about non-traditional treatments providing ‘cures’, which can influence the decision-making of patients seeking answers and even lead them away from potentially curative traditional treatments.