More Recent Article on Dr.Brewer's
- American Clinical Laboratory May
- Editor's Page
- Defined-purpose research: Reflections
on the unexplored work of a perceptive researcher
By Frederick I. Scott
- Recent science news announcements and symposia
brought to mind the remarkable utilitarian findings of a researcher
whose work spanned the disparate disciplines involved to produce
and substantially validate practical solutions to problems. These
problems are now being addressed expensively in fragments, promising
only the possibility of more research.
- Dr. Keith Brewer, a physicist, served for
some time in his research career as Chief of the Mass Spectrometer
and Isotope section of the National Bureau of Standards (now
the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg,
MD). Among the studies he conducted beginning in the early 1930s,
the examination of the ratio of potassium isotopes 39K/41K in
a wide range of living and nonliving materials proved most fruitful,
particularly in the study of cancer initiation.1
- He found that ratio to be constant at 14.200
to at least five significant figures in ocean water, for example,
down to at least 6000 ft. In embryonic and very young rapidly
growing tissues, however, he noted a tendency for the lighter
isotope to be enriched, giving values of 14.35 ± 0.05.
In very old tissues, he measured ratios as low as 13.75. In cancer
tissues, the ratio remained close to 14.35, irrespective of the
age of the subject.
- He found that when potassium ions bombard
a membrane across which a strong potential is imposed, the lighter
isotope concentrates with a separation coefficient proportional
to the square root of the ratio of the heavier to lighter mass.
With this finding he determined that the14.35 ratio in cancer
and embryonic cells corresponded to single-stage enrichment.
He showed that in solution the K atoms associate with 5-7 molecules
of water. In the presence of other polar molecules, the number
of atoms associated with the ion depends on the polarity of the
molecules. The bombarding ions tend to carry all or part of their
associated masses with them into the membrane, as determined
by the solubility of the associated molecules in the membrane
- When equilibrium conditions exist between
the membrane and the surrounding solution, he observed no isotope
effect, indicating that
equilibrium conditions prevail in normal cells, since little
if any isotope effect occurs in normal cells. Enrichment of the
heavier isotope, 41K, occurs by another mechanism not pertinent
- Questions raised by these findings led Dr.
Brewer to a study of the cell membrane and eventually to publication
of a series of papers with Dr. Richard A. Passwater (Consultant
in Gerontology, Ocean Pines, MD), on the subject of the physics
of the cell membrane.2-6 The major constituents of the cell membrane
are phospholipids; proteins contribute to the structure. The
lipids are so disposed that the polar phospho groups constitute
the outer walls. These polar groups are characterized by oxygen
atoms connected to phosphorus by double bonds, i.e., P|O. The
very electronegative oxygen atom (compared to the P atom) disposes
the two electron pairs, connecting the atoms much nearer to the
O atom than the P atom. The moderately-intense negative intrinsic
field surrounding the |O group exerts a repulsive force between
the |O groups resulting in a relatively uniform distribution
of them over the surface. Thus, membrane surfaces may be classified
as base exchangers, since the |O groups are powerful electron
- In the unexcited or ground state, the surface
is only a mild electron donor, hence it attracts only cations
high up in the Hofmeister series. (This series is the same as
the ionization potential series ranging from ionic cesium [Cs+]
at 3.87 V at the top down through rubidium [Rb+] at 4.16 V; potassium
[K+] at 4.138 V; sodium [Na+] at 5.12 V; lithium [Li+] at 5.363
V; calcium [Ca+] at 6.09 V; to magnesium [Mg+] at 7.61 V.) Thus,
only K+ ions, with the exception of Rb+ and Cs+ ions, can be
attached. The instant an ion strikes the electron donor group
and becomes attached, it finds itself in a powerful electric
gradient of at least 105 V/cm to be drawn rapidly through the
membrane in about 10-8 sec.
- In the excited state, one of the electrons
in the electron pair is raised from the ground state to some
high energy level in the singlet or triplet energy series. In
this state the bond becomes strongly electronegative, a powerful
electron donor, transforming the membrane surface to accept almost
any cation in the Hofmeister series.
- In the embryonic cell, the membrane permits
essentially all K+ ions striking the electron donor group (|O)
to pass through into the
cytoplasm, as illustrated clearly by the isotope abundance ratio,
showing that these isotopes pass through the membrane in proportion
to the ratio in which they bombard the surface. So, too, with
cancer cells. But what mechanisms or materials triggered or caused
the excited state? These observations and the further work they
engendered, eventually led Dr. Brewer to propose and test a mechanism
interrupting the cancer process.7
- The isotope effect for potassium, which transports
glucose into the cell, and for calcium, which transports oxygen
into the cell, means that glucose can readily enter cancer cells
but that oxygen cannot. In the normal cell the glucose, upon
entering the cell, reacts with the oxygen in the cell to be burned
to carbon dioxide and water with the liberation of heat. Absorbed
on the membrane surface, the heat raises the P|O radicals to
an energized state, permitting them to attach more Ca++ ions.
Thus, the oxidation within the cell, primarily that of glucose,
determines the amount of oxygen entering the cell.
- Dr. Brewer postulated carcinogenic materials,
primarily polycyclic in nature, and an energized state of the
membrane, resulting possibly
from prolonged irritation, create the condition in which glucose
can enter the cell but oxygen cannot. In the absence of oxygen,
glucose undergoes fermentation to lactic acid, dropping the cell
pH to 7 and eventually to 6.5. In the acid medium, changes in
the DNA and RNA effect the loss of control and chromosomal aberrations
may occur. Changes in the various cell enzymes produce toxic
compounds that kill the cells within the main body of the tumor,
leaving a thin layer of rapidly growing cells surrounding the
- The acid toxins leaking out of the tumor
mass poison the host and give rise to the pains generally associated
- Based on the ready uptake of cesium and rubidium
(which cannot carry glucose across the membrane) by the cancer
cells, Dr. Brewer
devised a therapy aimed at depriving the cell of glucose and
supporting the system with antioxidants and other nutrients.
Tests with mice and humans affirmed the efficacy of the therapy
in preliminary trials. In a most remarkable finding, all pains
associated with the cancer disappeared within 12 to 24 hr, except
in a few cases where morphine withdrawal required a few more
hours. Rapid shrinkage of tumor masses occurred with side effects
of nausea and diarrhea reported by some patients depending on
the general condition of the digestive tract.
- While Dr. Brewer continued his studies and
supported work at the University of Wisconsin (Plattville, WI)
until his death, no further
exploration of this promising approach seems to have occurred.
- Dr. Brewer's rationale and experimental findings
seem so much more promising both theoretically and practically
than some highly touted and expensive research proclamations
in the news that one wonders about the perspicacity of the grantees
and grantors - until one realizes that oftentimes researchers
are in the business of research, not of problem solving.
- 1. Brewer AK. Cancer: Some comments on the
physics involved. Am Lab 1973; 5(11):12-23 and references therein.
2. Brewer AK, Passwater RA. Physics of the cell membrane: Part
I The role of double-bond energy states. Am Lab 1974; 6(4):59-74.
3. Brewer AK, Passwater RA. Physics of the cell membrane: Part
II Fluorescence and phosphorescence in cell analysis. Am lab
4. Brewer AK, Passwater RA. Physics of the cell membrane: Part
III The mechanism of nerve action. Am Lab 1974; 6(11):49-62.
5. Brewer AK, Passwater RA. Physics of the cell membrane: Part
IV Further comments on the role of the double bond. Am Lab 1975;7(1):41-50.
6. Brewer AK, Passwater RA. Physics of the cell membrane: Part
V Mechanisms involved in cancer. Am Lab 1976; 8(4):37-47.
7. Brewer AK. The high pH therapy for cancer tests on mice and
humans. Pharmacol Biochem & Behavior 1984; 21 Suppl 1:1-5.
- Mr. Scott is Editor, American Clinical Laboratory.
- More Information on High pH Therapy is available from the
Brewer Science Library which is a Non-Profit company handling
the archives for Dr.Brewer and Dr.Nieper. Ask for Lillian. http://www.mwt.net/~drbrewer/
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