For a therapy that's been heralded as a cure for cancer, AIDS and autism, the baptism of GcMAF has been a fiery one. Its chief exponent, Dr Jeff Bradstreet, was found dead from a gunshot wound in 2015—to this day his relatives suspect foul play—and its main manufacturer was jailed last November.
Studies showing the effectiveness of GcMAF, an immunotherapy treatment, have been denounced as bad science or even fraudulent, yet countering that are the thousands of testimonials from people who say they have been helped—even cured—by the therapy.
In sentencing David Noakes, who manufactured GcMAF in the UK, the judge was at pains to point out that the therapy "is not on trial." Noakes, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of manufacturing and selling an unlicensed product and one of money laundering, firmly believed the therapy had helped many people, but he had shown "a reckless disregard for the regulatory regime," said Judge Nicholas Lorraine-Smith.
The prosecution followed a three-year investigation by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which claimed Noakes had made £10 million (about $12.5 million) from the sale of GcMAF between 2012 and 2015, the year when regulators raided the Cambridgeshire, UK, manufacturing plant of his company Immuno Biotech, seizing product worth around £5.5 million ($7 million).
In a statement, the MHRA said there was no scientific evidence to support Noakes's claims that GcMAF was a 'miracle cure' for cancer, HIV and autism. It also claimed that Noakes had admitted it couldn't cure cancer, although in a separate statement, Noakes had said the admission was advised by his solicitors and had been part of a plea-bargaining negotiation.
In June 2015, just a few months after the MHRA raid, investigators from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raided the Georgia clinic of Dr Jeff Bradstreet, who had been using GcMAF to treat more than 11,000 children with autism. His body was found a few days later, floating in a river in North Carolina, with one gunshot wound to the chest. Investigators said he had committed suicide, but his family hired independent forensic analysts who suspected foul play.
It's only natural
For a therapy that makes such enormous claims, and which—if true—would challenge the pharmaceutical industry, it's not surprising it has been mired in conspiracy theories, charges of fraud and even lawsuits.
GcMAF (Gc protein-derived macrophage activating factor) is a protein that is naturally produced by the body and plays an important role in the healthy functioning of the immune system, and especially in activated macrophages, the white blood cells that protect against cancerous cells, bacteria and 'foreign substances.'
The GcMAF theory postulates that people who are immunocompromised have low levels of the protein and are more susceptible to cancer, multiple sclerosis and other systemic conditions. Cancer cells produce an enzyme, nagalase, that shuts down macrophage activity, and so the typical cancer patient has high levels of nagalase and low levels of GcMAF.
This theory—and the discovery of GcMAF—is the work of Dr Nobuto Yamamoto, a biophysicist who announced his discovery in 1991 while working at Hahnemann Medical College (now Drexel University College of Medicine) in Philadelphia.
Starting in 2006, he began to publish papers suggesting that nagalase levels were an indicator of AIDS progression, and that GcMAF could destroy metastasizing (spreading) breast cancer cells, combat colorectal cancer and cure HIV.
The journals that had published these papers eventually withdrew them after receiving complaints they were unscientific. The Anticancer Fund, based in Belgium, criticized Yamamoto's report on treating eight colorectal patients because its measure of successful treatment was based purely on patients' levels of nagalase, and not tumor size, while the aggressiveness of the cancers was never disclosed.1
One paper escaped the purge. Yamamoto and his team treated 16 prostate cancer patients with weekly doses of 100 ng GcMAF for between 14 and 25 weeks and found that their nagalase levels had dropped, which, they concluded, "indicated these patients were tumor-free."2
In 2009, Yamamoto sold the patents for GcMAF to an Israeli biopharmaceutical company, Efranet Macrophage, which subsequently rebranded it as EF-022. But others started to take an interest in GcMAF, including David Noakes. Yamamoto said his patent lawyers had tried to sue Noakes, but he had 'escaped.' One of Noakes' associates was Dr Bradstreet, who was testing GcMAF as a therapy for autism.
Bradstreet, a neuroscientist and professor of child development at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona, had published an initial study showing that GcMAF lowered the nagalase levels of 40 autistic children—and, thus, according to Yamamoto's protocols, had reversed autism itself.3 Immuno Biotech, Noakes's company, has claimed that 500 autistic children of the 3,500 treated with GcMAF made a full recovery, and Bradstreet said he had treated thousands of autistic children at his clinic until the FDA raid.
The Immuno Biotech website claims that 180 scientists have published 73 research papers on GcMAF, while the company has written 33 papers since 2012. At a conference in 2013, doctors had reported cases of complete remission even in patients with stage IV cancer, and those individuals who had never had chemotherapy were the most likely to survive.
Overall, the company claims a 25 percent success rate with autism, with many other chronic conditions—like herpes, acne, kidney disease, Crohn's disease and osteoporosis—also being reversed.
The death of Bradstreet and imprisonment of Noakes might have heralded the end of the GcMAF saga, but it refuses to go away. In Japan—where yet another version of GcMAF is being produced and sold on the web—researchers and therapists continue to take a close interest in the protein and have published papers on their findings.
In one, researchers at Kagoshima University tested a 'second-generation' GcMAF—produced with cows' colostrum, the first form of milk all mammals produce after giving birth—on two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, who they claim experienced a reduction in fatigue and pain.4
Colostrum MAF, as it's known, was also tested on a patient with multiple sclerosis, who showed improvements, especially in motor function.5 Combined with low-intensity ultrasound therapy, it also killed cancer cells in a 77-year-old man with lung cancer.6
Proponents of GcMAF describe it as the most powerful—and promising—immunotherapy treatment for cancer of them all. The thousands who have been treated with GcMAF—including hundreds of cancer sufferers on the island of Guernsey, where Noakes's Immuno Biotech company is based—would agree.
GcMAF could be another false trail in the long road to finding a cancer cure, but there's enough evidence out there that suggests it deserves a closer—and independent—look. But raiding offices and clinics, and seizing the products, isn't the best way of finding out.
How it works
GcMAF (Gc protein-derived macrophage activating factor) is a protein we produce in our bodies. It binds with vitamin D to help improve immune system response by activating macrophages, the white blood cells that kill bacteria and cancer cells and clean up cellular 'debris.'
But the protein doesn't operate alone; it needs vitamin D to help regulate it. The vitamin—and especially variants D3 and D2—is vital for the healthy functioning of the immune system, and especially for the development of the central nervous system and neurological processes.
An enzyme called nagalase (alpha-N-acetylgalactosaminidase) can interfere with macrophage activity, and having a high nagalase level is a risk factor for many chronic conditions, including lupus and cancer.
GcMAF therapy blocks nagalase, allowing the body to start producing its own version of the protein and restore healthy immune function.
As well as supplementing with D3—with anything from 10,000 to 20,000 IU every day—taking GcMAF may also work better when it's combined with oleic acid, a fatty acid found in meats, vegetables and milk.
The original GcMAF products were based on serum (blood), but later generations are instead produced using colostrum, the first milk produced by mammals after giving birth. Antibodies in the colostrum called immunoglobulins are also supposed to make the protein more effective.
Another GcMAF activator is yogurt. Dr John Gray—author of the best-selling book series Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus who now runs his own health center in California—advocates the use of Bravo Super Probiotic yogurt, as the product's 42 strains of probiotic bacteria have been "proven to produce the essential protein, GcMAF."