A Critical Look at Robert Dowling and His North Carolina Institute of Technology

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
January 7, 2007

In 2002, according to its Web site, the North Carolina Institute of Technology was founded in 1993 and provided “an effective scientific method for shutting down the cancer process FOREVER through proper management of the body’s cells with cell optimizers developed by the Institute.” The estimated cost for 4 to 6 months of “cell optimization” was $5,000 to $10,000. The Institute’s goal was said to be to “eradicate cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and all degenerative diseases through prevention or correction” by the year 2010. However, the site focused only on treatment for cancer.

The institute’s proprietor Robert H. Dowling, was not identified on the site at that time. However, his book, CANCERCURED.ORG: The Book, provided the following background information:

The author is a graduate of Carson Newman College and Texas Christian University. Presently he is a PhD candidate in Natural Health at Clayton College of Natural Health.

His interest in natural health began during his years in the U. S. Navy. While station in the Middle East, he served, in his spare time, as a volunteer in a missionary hospital on Bahrain Island, off the coast of Saudi Arabia. During his stay in this area, he had the opportunity of traveling to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, and other regional countries, and it was these visits that spurred his interest in the practices of natural healing.

Upon his discharge from the U. S. Navy, he attended college and graduate school. After graduate school, he taught at Columbia College and in various public schools in order to finance his ongoing research and support his family.

In 1979, he and his wife went to Peru on an education assignment. Here, he began the “Peruvian Study,” an investigation that provided the basis for his later research and, ultimately, gave birth to the new science of Biological Terrain Management as defined by the North Carolina Institute of Technology. Today he is the Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Institute of Technology [1].

The above description gave no indication of scientific training or credentials. The Clayton College of Natural Health is a nonaccredited correspondence school that promotes dubious health methods [2]. In April 2002 and again in January 2008, I searched Medline and found no evidence that Dowling had published anything on cancer in a recognized scientific journal.

Further Claims

In 2002, according to the Institute’s Web site:

If you have cancer, the technology found on this website can save your life. Cancer is a metabolic disorder and can now be treated biologically very effectively to provide you with a high quality of life and, in most cases, to extend your life indefinitely. The cell optimization protocols are biologically correct, non-toxic to normal cells, applied in an analytical and scientific manner, and have an effective rate of 90 percent or better (as compared to less than 10% overall with traditional treatments) depending upon the type of cancer, age of the person, and other factors. This technology has had proven effectiveness with early and terminal stage individuals—some only days from death. Our program is, generally, a non-pharmaceutical approach using the latest high tech biologicals, many formulated by our Institute, which are designed to stop the cancer process. While we do not discourage traditional treatments, we believe a non-toxic approach is a better choice, yet some of our success cases have participated in both traditional technology and Biological Terrain Management. Since our Wellness Centre is not a treatment center, we do not offer traditional treatments.

The program was claimed to treat cancer “even before it becomes symptomatic and before it can be identified positively through traditional techniques.” Although the site did not describe the treatment in detail, it did offer a “new metabolic procedure” that selectively shuts down “cancer cells’ ability to do mitosis through the destruction of ATP synthesis and through sufficiently blocking the excretion of lactic acid of these abnormal cells to kill them in their own acids.” It further claimed that “Cancer cells have extreme difficulty controlling their pH” and that Biological Terrain Management can “take advantage of this weakness without hurting normal cells.” There is no plausible reason to believe that any of these statements are true. Scientific research has shown that the underlying cause of cancer is genetic, not metabolic, and that the metabolic pathways of cancer cells do not differ significantly from that of normal cells.

The site’s “Technical Information” page contained a lengthy discussion of metabolic reactions related to the body’s production of energy. The page claimed that NCIT’s “Biological Terrain Management” used “ATP-availability depressors” to reduce cellular energy supplies and used “lactate export blockers” to cause a toxic buildup of lactate in the cells. Stating that tumor cells get much of their energy from oxidation of fats and amino acids rather than glucose, it included “fatty acid blockers” and “amino acid blockers” to prevent the use of these fuels for energy. In addition, there was a “defined nutritional regimen,” which appeared to be simply a diet high in carbohydrate.

Assuming that Dowling’s products contained substances that could do what he says, the key question is whether they can be selective enough to kill cancer cells without causing unacceptable damage to normal ones. Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, believes that the answer is no. Various body tissues differ greatly in their energy metabolism, and it seems likely that some tissues would be more sensitive than cancer cells to the metabolic inhibitors used in this therapy. In fact, uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation (a class of chemicals included in the “ATP-availability depressors”) have caused blindness when used in weight-loss products. While Dowling claims that his treatment regimens have produced positive results without “discernable toxic side effects,” neither his Web site nor his book documented this. Dr. Wheeler sent an e-mail to ncit@starband.net asking what specific compounds are in the products and what evidence shows that they inhibit human cancers while sparing normal tissues. He received no answer.

Another page listed five treatment “objectives”:

  • Restore normal cell order of degenerative normal cells through enhancing cellular respiration.[Cellular respiration refers to the mechanism by which cells use oxygen to produce energy. To demonstrate this, Mr. Dowling would have to show that he can measure oxygen use or energy production and perhaps identify the mechanism by which the energy is produced. It seems unlikely that he has the ability to do this.]
  • Retard or shut down the blood supply to the tumor. [Although some substances have been found to do this, the technique is not applicable to most tumors. Without published evidence, there is no reason to believe that the substances Dowling sell to patients can benefit them.]
  • Enhance oxygen delivery to reduce the number of hypoxic cells. [As noted above, the idea that cancer cells grow better in the absence of oxygen is a myth. In fact, cancer research throughout the world involves tissue-culture techniques in which cancer cells are grown (optimally) in the presence of air—which is 20% oxygen.]
  • Localize gene therapy to the desired area through the use of tissue-specific receptors and tissue-specific enhancers. [Achieving something like this would require extensive scientific training, access to extensive laboratory equipment, and the ability to conduct large clinical trials to judge the results. There is no credible reason to believe Mr. Dowling has any of these.]
  • Reduce cancer cell voltage driving primitive cells more primitive for better recognition by NK cells. [Voltage is a measure of electrical potential difference. Cells normally have a voltage across the cell membrane, more positive outside of the cell, so that if an appropriate passageway is opened, electric current will flow. Before legitimately talking about raising or lowering voltage, someone must have a way to measure it, alter it, and demonstrate an effect on cell’s growth. To date, there is no published scientific evidence that the voltage of cancer cells has been measured, that it differs from that of normal cells, or that changing it will influence the rate of cell growth. Furthermore, before an effect by NK cells could be produced, the tumor cell surface receptor must be identified and NK cells must be conditioned in the laboratory to recognize them. Since NK cells can be identified, their concentration can be measured. There is no credible reason to believe that Dowling has the training or laboratory facilities to develop any such methods.]

Other pages indicated that the method was centered around a device called the BioScan 2010, which analyzes the “biological terrain” and was used to help select products formulated by the Institute. In 2001, the FDA notified a manufacturer and a distributor that the device lacked FDA approval and could not be legally marketed in the United States [3,4].

Dowling and his Institute have were also involved in the marketing of dubious test kits through a company called Natural Health Consultants, of Vallejo, California. In May 2000, this company posted the following notice:

We are branching out now with the inclusion of tests you can take at home to determine your state of health. Our first two tests are revolutionary in scope and potential. They are the Ultra Early Biocellular Marker Kit and the Biological Terrain Management Kit. According to the manufacturer, the former kit is capable of telling you whether you are likely to acquire cancer or other degenerative disease in the next two years with almost 100% accuracy. The latter kit can analyze your body chemistry and blood picture in depth to create a customized protocol to restore good health. According to the manufacturer, even cancer can be reversed by strict adherence to the protocol.

About a year later, however, the FDA warned Natural Health Consultants that the kits were devices that would be illegal to market in interstate commerce [5]. Curiously, Dowling’s book recommends the videos of Lorraine Day, M.D., another promoter of dubious cancer treatments.

Quantum Health Management

In January 2008, in response to an e-mail inquiry, I investigated again and found that Dowling now markets his offerings through several sites and claims to have discovered a breast cancer cure “four years ahead of schedule.” His “institute” and a “division” called Quantum Health Management (QTM) operate from the same address in Hot Springs, North Carolina. The Quantum site states that through digital infrared thermal imaging he discovered that “oral pathology is the primary factors for causing most, if not all degenerative disease and cancer.” (Digital infrared thermal imaging—commonly referred to as thermography—has very little if any legitimate medical use [7]. Moreover, the idea that the problems in the mouth could have such a broad effect is preposterous.) Another of Dowling’s sites states:

Our team members – university professors, independent engineers and independent bio-scientists and researchers — have made the most remarkable discovery in the history of man.

As the result of one of the largest human studies ever conducted for cancer and degenerative diseases – some 40,000 individuals — we have found the genetic link to the real cause of cancer, and we have learned that . . .


Membership in the Quantum Health Management Club includes “access to our Club clinic that is staffed with Quantum Health Management professionals with a track record of stopping cancer, renewing the cardiovascular system, reversing Type II diabetes and other types of degenerative disease and health problems!” However, prospective clients are required to read the book Am I Dead . . . or Do I Just Feel Like it,” which can be ordered through the QTM site. (Note: The QTM Club is not related in any way to medical billing services named Quantum Health Management in New York State.)

The Bottom Line

I have seen no credible evidence that Biological Terrain Assessment [6] or the other services offered at the North Carolina Institute of Technology have a scientifically plausible rationale. Please contact me if you have further information to share about Dowling’s activities.

For Additional Information

  1. Dowling RH. CANCERCURED ORG: The Book. Columbia, South Carolina: NCIT Publications, 2001.
  2. Barrett S. Clayton College of Natural Health: Be wary of the school and its graduates. Quackwatch, March 20, 2007.
  3. Spears LD. Warning letter to company director Gehrhard F.P. Braun, April 25, 2001.
  4. Spears LD. Warning letter to company CEO Scott Moyer, April 25, 2001.
  5. Spears LD. Warning letter to Gerald T. Wolke, RPh, June 7, 2001.
  6. Barrett S. Biological Terrain Assessment. Quackwatch Web site, updated April 9, 2002.
  7. Barrett S. A critical look at thermography. Chirobase, Aug 9, 2007.
  8. Yes. BreastCancerCURED.com home page, accessed Jan 8, 2008.

This article was revised on January 7, 2007.