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The Scorpion Cure?

Aired November 3, 2003 - 15:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, do blue scorpions harbor a cure for cancer? At least one Cuban scientist and scores of patients insist scorpion venom is a powerful cure. CNN's Lucia Newman went looking for the poison potion and the people willing to drink it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Twenty-eight -year-old Mutis Monsan (ph) says she's living proof it works. "I was 11 when I was diagnosed," she says, "and started taking escosul (ph) when I was 15."

Her father, Jose Felipe Monsan (ph), says in 1992 her cancer of the pancreas had spread despite two years of chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and three operations that doctors had given up. In desperation, he turned to this man, Michael Borgere (ph), a biologist from Guantanamo who was experimenting with scorpion venom on cancerous tumors in rats and dogs. The results says Borgere (ph), were astonishing.

"The immune system of the benign cells increases. The malignant cells start dying, tumors shrink or disappears," explains Borgere (ph). We saw how some 85 percent of the rats survived.

Mutis (ph) was his first human patient. She and her father were so grateful, they began breeding scorpions. They now have 3,000. And under Borgere's (ph) direction are distributing the venom at no cost at their home.

Twice a week they dispense hundreds of bottles of this unusual liquid, a potion-made water mixed with drops of venom from the blue scorpion. People from all over Cuba and even abroad come here, seeking the unorthodox treatment for cancer.

"Doctors gave my father a month to live and said they could do nothing because he had nine brain tumors," says Raphael Gortez (ph), who came to pick up more of the scorpion poison he says has prolonged his father's life for the last seven months.

(on camera): The only problem, say the Monsans (ph), is a shortage of the raw material for their treatment. They say there just aren't enough of these little blue scorpions to meet the demand.

(voice-over): In just over a decade, some 60,000 Cubans have used the escosul (ph) to treat their cancer, says Borgere (ph). Mutis (ph) and her father admit they haven't gathered any scientifically controlled data, but say from their experience 80 percent of patients show a marked improvement in quality and duration of life. And of those, 25 to 30 percent go into remission.

Cuba's oncology institute is skeptical and says more tests need to be run to determine whether escosul (ph) does indeed work. Cuba's largest laboratory, Labufan (ph), is already conducting experiments. In the meantime, people like Victor Manuel Fraga (ph), who has lymphoma, will continue to come here for escosul (ph), which provides, if not a miracle cure, at least a ray of hope.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Cuba.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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