So, what is this "Gerson Method" and does it have any legitimacy in the treatment of cancer? According to the article, it is a nutritional method that uses coffee enemas, "which are said to stimulate immune functioning." The passive voice is a wonderful thing - who is saying that they stimulate immune functioning and is there any evidence to support this assertion? Clearly, the reporter responsible for this article did not do any research to find out what this method was and whether it was reputable, but as I found out quickly, it's not too hard to find out that this is a wholly dubious treatment.
From what I can tell from a rather cursory websearch, this method will not cure rectal cancer, and if it is used instead of the usual methods, it will endanger the man's life by postponing effective treatment. A physician blogger known as Orac tells a sad tale about a patient who came to him with orange skin. It turns out he had been diagnosed with rectal cancer, but rather than having surgery, had begun a nutritional treatment that involved coffee enemas and megadoses of carrot juice (hence, the orange skin). His treatment was based on a program designed by Dr. Max Gerson.
Orac describes this treatment as follows:
The basis of this "therapy," developed first by Max Gerson, MD back in the 1940's and 1950's, then continued by William Kelley, DDS in the 1960's, and still practiced today by Nicholas Gonzalez, MD, is a belief that all cancers come from a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, which supposedly allows cancer cells to grow. By the "concept" behind this, cancer grows and metastasizes because there is lack of cancer-digesting enzymes in the body. The solution is, supposedly, is to get pancreatic enzymes to the place where cancer is growing, in a concentration high enough to stop growth, but not so high as to cause too rapid production of "toxins" from tumor breakdown. Consequently, the treatment consists of "detoxification" with coffee enemas, which supposedly help flush the waste products of tumor cell breakdown out of the body; dietary manipulations; ingestion of pancreatic enzymes; and megadoses of supplements and vitamins, like carrot juice. The original Gerson diet required more than a gallon a day of juices made from fruits, vegetables, and raw calf's liver, but there are many variants.
This treatment does not do anything for rectal cancer, and because the patient had postponed surgery for over a year, by the time he came back to Orac the tumor had increased greatly in size and the operation required to treat it was much more difficult, and his chance of surviving the cancer was much lower. I hope that the Ithaca man does not postpone an appropriate cancer treatment out of the mistaken hope that the Gerson treatment will actually help him.
An exhaustive debunking of the Gerson diet and its coffee enemas can be found at Unconventional Cancer Treatments: Dietary Treatments. This is taken from Unconventional Cancer Treatments, published in September 1990 by the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, pp. 44-51. A more recent source of information can be found on the website of the American Cancer Society: Gerson Therapy.