Patients, experts raise red flags about Lawrence doctor’s herbal ‘mud’ cancer treatment

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A retired doctor living in Lawrence claims he has developed an herbal cocktail that helps destroy cancer cells.

But some of his patients are angry saying they wasted thousands of dollars for a mixture that left them feeling sick.

Chris Rosenau doesn't drink or smoke and lives a lifestyle almost as pure as the country surrounding her home near Missoula, Montana. She was shocked when her oncologist told her she had early stage breast cancer.

"It was still a two centimeter mass. It was right on the border of stage one and stage two," Rosenau said.

The former medical transcriptionist chose to have a lumpectomy, but didn't want radiation. She wanted a more natural way of fighting any remaining cancer cells.

She heard about Dr. Ken Crawford from a cancer Facebook group. Crawford claimed he had developed an herbal treatment to fight cancer.

"Got hold of him, talked to him. I as very impressed with his knowledge of cancer," Rosenau said.

She said Crawford told her his treatment was still in its experimental stages but was showing great promise as a possible cure. Plus, it had none of the nasty side effects of chemo and radiation.

But Crawford's treatment came with a hefty price tag: $17,000.

Crawford also required his patients to fly him to their home and put him up in a hotel so he could show them how to use the mixture of dried herbs and mushrooms.

Chris Rosenau didn't want to do chemo or radiation, so she opted for a more experimental treatment.

Rosenau said she blended the herbs and mushrooms and then mixed that with full-fat yogurt. She said Crawford referred to the mixture as mud because that's exactly what it looks like.

"In the morning you would add grapefruit juice to it, blend it up and you would chug it," said Rosenau who was supposed to take the mixture twice a day. "It's nasty tasting stuff."

She couldn't tell FOX4 exactly what herbs she was taking because Crawford required both her and her husband Mitch to sign a non-disclosure agreement. According to the agreement, she couldn't even tell her oncologist.

"After one glass, I just felt horrible, nausea, headachy," Rosenau said. "I stayed on the protocol for a week and a half and just continued to go down hill."

She had constant diarrhea and lost nearly 10 pounds from her already slight frame.

Desperate, she confided in her acupuncturist who is also an herbalist.

"I was shocked," said Steve Delvo who has spent decades studying Chinese herbs and has an office in Hamilton, Montana, not far from Rosenau's home.

"She was really nose diving. If she had kept on that protocol, that mud or whatever he likes to call it, it would have probably killed her," he said.

Plus Delvo said the herbs were extremely common -- though Crawford claimed many were rare, and one was on an endangered species list.

Rosenau said she put her trust in Crawford in part because he was a medical doctor. But Crawford's medical background is troubling. A graduate of KU, Crawford worked as an anesthesiologist in Maryland.

The FOX4 Problem Solvers learned that, in 2011, a Maryland disciplinary board for physicians found him guilty of practicing medicine for eight months without a license, failing to disclose he had been denied clinical privileges at another facility and lying about his continuing education hours.

It was shortly afterward that Crawford stopped practicing medicine and started working on developing his herbal cancer cure.

Ken Crawford doesn't call his treatment a cure, but he claims the treatment can help, even without observable evidence.

Problem Solvers paid a visit to Crawford's townhouse in Lawrence to get his side. He said he had developed his cancer treatment by reading thousands of medical journal articles.

"I read 30,000 journal articles, 90 a day," he said.

From that he discovered how certain proteins interact to fight cancer, but then he took the research multiple steps further to increase the probability of a cure.

"What I've done has never been done before," Crawford said.

He quickly showed us on his cell phone a photo of what appeared to be a one-page formula.

"This is what took me two years and nine months to create," he said.

Crawford said he had initially planned to partner with a lab to test his protocol on mice, but dropped the idea when the labs demanded too large a portion of his company.

"One wanted 40% of my company, the other wanted 35," he said. "They were totally greedy. I wasn't going to give them part of my company."

We pointed out that such a study would have provided Crawford with the proof he needed that his protocol actually worked. But Crawford insisted his patients have provided that proof.

Crawford said his first subjects were people with end-stage cancer who had run out of hope.

One was the father of his best friend. Crawford said that after drinking his mixture, the man's tumor shrank. That's a remarkable claim and one Crawford admits he can't prove because no X-rays were ever taken.

"They opted to accept God's faith and not do any more scans," Crawford said, adding that he never promised he can cure anyone. In fact, he states that explicitly in his non-disclosure form.

"Notice there is not the word cure," Crawford told FOX4. "I'm not God. I don't claim to be."

But in emails to Rosenau, he claimed multiple times that his mixture "quite possibly cured" her even after just a little over one week of a six-month treatment.

That's also the reason why he refused to give the Rosenaus the majority of their money back. But he said he might reconsider a refund if her cancer returns within the next three years.

Experts say herbal therapies like Crawford's are almost completely unregulated and therefore can be risky for patients, not only financially but medically.

"Even well intended people who think they have a discovery have done harm to people who trusted them," said Terry Rosell, a medical ethicist.

FOX4 showed our entire interview with Crawford to Rosell and his colleague Leslie Ann McNolty. Both were skeptical of Crawford's claim that he developed a possible cure by simply reading journal articles.

Both were equally surprised that Crawford, a retired anesthesiologist, would demand his patients not disclose their treatment even to their oncologists.

"That strikes me as a big red flag for anyone who is considering this," McNolty said. "Modern medicine is not an individual pursuit."

Rosenau, who said she feels much better ever since she stopped Crawford's treatment, doesn't expect to ever get her money back, but she wants to protect others from wasting theirs.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Kansas Attorney General's Office are now looking into her case.

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