David Servan-Schreiber

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 10 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5128
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}

Author of a bestselling book that promotes natural cures for cancer

David Servan-Schreiber, already successful as a psychiatric and neuroscience researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, was 31 years old when the unthinkable happened. It was autumn 1992. He and two colleagues had planned to conduct research using magnetic resonance imaging, but a student “guinea pig” had failed to show up. Dr Servan-Schreiber volunteered to lie down in the scanner for the experiments, his arms tight at his sides, “a little like [in] a coffin,” he later wrote in his bestselling book Anticancer: A New Way of Life. Before the experiment was over, a colleague in the control room told Servan-Schreiber over the intercom, “Listen, there’s something wrong. We’re coming in.”

It was malignant

Servan-Schreiber, a native of France who the year before had worked in Iraq with Médecins Sans Frontières, studied the images of his brain. He saw “a sort of a ball the size of a walnut” in the right hand region of his prefrontal cortex. Follow-up tests confirmed his fears: it was malignant. “No longer wrapped in the comfortable mantle of physician and scientist, I had become a cancer patient,” he wrote.

He underwent successful surgery, and the …

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