Terminally ill cancer patients receiving unorthodox treatments at a private clinic fare no better or worse than people who receive standard care such as chemotherapy, according to a study published Thursday.

The study raises questions about the value of chemotherapy and other rigorous care for people dying of cancer, its author says."A difficult result was to face, as we frequently fail to do, the hard fact that conventional medicine, with all the toxicities it engenders, is not helping people live any longer and often makes their lives less pleasant," said Dr. Barrie R. Cassileth, who directed the study.

The study's results were published in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cassileth's study examined whether desperately ill cancer patients live longer and better if they receive unconventional treatments, like those offered at many clinics around the country.

It compared the outcome of people treated at one of the centers, the Livingston-Wheeler Medical Clinic in San Diego, with patients who got routine care at the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center.

"Our study showed that, regardless of whether they receive unorthodox or conventional treatment, these patients will die just as soon," said Cassileth, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania.