Cancer Profit & Politics
A staggering 1.37 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in calendar 2005. That statistic was taken straight from the American Cancer Society's own reports. Given the crushing impact of cancer on public health, coupled with the ineffectiveness of measures like chemotherapy and radiation, you'd think that agencies like the American Cancer Society (ACS) would clamor for the chance to investigate new methods for preventing and combating the disease. Unfortunately, you might be wrong.
In this article, we'll explore how agencies like the ACS have an eye for their own financial interests. Why does the ACS reportedly put far greater financial emphasis on chemotherapy and radiation research than on life-saving prevention techniques? Why does the ACS appear to discredit physicians researching and practicing effective alternative cancer-fighting techniques? A closer look at the American Cancer Society reveals the agency's ties to the cancer industry.
Conflicts of Interest: Why the ACS stresses treatment and screening over prevention
So what are the American Cancer Society's strategies for fighting cancer? Innocent Casualties author Elaine Feuer comments that the ACS is more intent on developing cancer treatments than preventing the disease. Feuer argues, "Instead of allotting money towards the prevention of cancer, the medical establishment prescribes chemotherapy and radiation (which can be very expensive and even toxic)."
Also contentious is the agency's emphasis on screening. Samuel S. Epstein, author of The Politics of Cancer, argues that the society's "priorities remain fixated on damage control -- screening, diagnosis, and treatment." Sure enough, the ACS' 2005 Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Facts and Figures report focuses primarily on screening. While screenings are valuable in helping people fight cancer, they do not prevent the disease. If decreasing the number of cancer fatalities is the first priority, why not prevent the disease before it starts?
Many critics of the American Cancer Society are quick to suggest its "vested interest" in the cancer industry, especially in chemotherapy and pharmaceutical treatments. Dr. Samuel Epstein, former head of a Congressional committee on cancer, has accused the ACS of foul play for years. Epstein claims that the ACS' "longstanding conflicts of interest with a wide range of industries, coupled with a systematic discrediting of evidence of avoidable causes of cancer" preclude many powerful life-saving initiatives.
In a debate this year, Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society did not deny the agency's connection to corporate interests. “The American Cancer Society views relationships with corporations as a source of revenue for cancer prevention,” said Dr. Thun. “That can be construed as an inherent conflict of interest, or it can be construed as a pragmatic way to get funding to support cancer control.” So it is in fact true that the ACS' 22-member board was created in 1990 to solicit corporate contributions.
It's also true that board members include Gordon Binder, who is the CEO of Amgen, a biotechnology company that sells chemotherapy products. Another board member, David R. Bethune, is president of Lederle Laboratories, a multinational pharmaceutical company and a division of American Cyanamid Company. In fact, many board members seemingly stand to make more money by treating cancer than preventing it.
But as Thun said, these relationships are "pragmatic" ways to garner funding. Money, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, is the name of the ACS' game. The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a watchdog organization that monitors major charities. After analyzing the ACS' budgets and programs, they concluded the agency is "more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives."
Epstein argues that the ACS's financial ties with industry also skew its policies pertaining to environmental causes of cancer. In his new book, Cancer-Gate: How to Win the Losing War Against Cancer, Epstein claims the agency is willfully suppressing information about the environmental causes of cancer. Carcinogens can be found in pesticides, industrial pollution, materials used in plastic or reconstructive surgery, the water supply and many other everyday materials.
Corporations – some of which contribute to the American Cancer Society – profit handsomely while they pollute the air, water, and food with a wide range of carcinogens, endangering the lives of millions of people. Why is the ACS silent? Epstein says they are more interested in inflating their budget than waging war against industrial pollution.
See the video: We've made available a short segment (3 minutes) from a must-see DVD called The Corporation, in which Dr. Epstein explains much more about the American Cancer Society and the cancer establishment in general.
It's a large download (37MB), and it's a Windows .avi file format, compressed in a .zip archive. To download it, right-click here, then save the file to your computer. Once the download is complete, double-click the file on your computer to view it.
Full credit for this video belongs to The Corporation film, which is strongly recommended. This short segment from the supplementary interviews is used under Fair Use as a commentary on the film and the cancer industry. Special thanks to Dr. Epstein for his courage and dedication in standing up to the cancer industry.
Preventing Smoking: The ACS' unidirectional attack
After heavy criticism in the 1980s, the American Cancer Society did step up some of its preventative measures. To date, the ACS' anti-smoking campaign is the most effective action ever taken by the agency. With states like New York prohibiting smoking in all businesses – bars and restaurants included – and a decrease in adult and adolescent smoking, the fight against Big Tobacco appears to be paying off. Even in this case, however, the American Cancer Society nevertheless stands to gain in some fashion from its unidirectional preventative action against smoking.
In the past few years the ACS has taken corporate "sponsorship" money. Here's how it works: Sponsors pay the ACS to have the society's logo donned on certain products. SmithKline Beecham, producer of NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette anti-smoking aids, paid the ACS $1 million for the right to use the American Cancer Society name.
But does taking money from these companies decrease the number of cancer fatalities caused by smoking? Given the already exorbitant price of anti-smoking aids in addition to the amount Beecham pays for the rights to the ACS logo, few smokers (who are statically lower-income) are enticed to quit smoking. These sponsorships also create an even more startling question: Does the ACS endorse these products? The American Cancer Society says no, claiming that the use of their logo represents a "partnership," although representatives of the ACS seem slow to articulate just what a partnership is. No extra ACS money goes into research for these products, nor are Beecham's products part of a long-term anti-smoking initiative.
Conservative Medicine: The ACS' Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management
Many alternative health doctors and providers charge the American Cancer Society with blackballing effective, albeit non-traditional, treatments. Critics claim the ACS attacks non-patentable, natural treatments in an effort to protect the interests of pharmaceutical companies. The main target of criticism: The ACS' controversial "Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management." This Committee reviews unorthodox or alternative therapies, putting many of these treatments on the "Unproven Methods" list. Appearing on this list can mean literal ruin to any health practitioner.
Dr. Stanislaw R. Burzynski, M.D., Ph.D., felt the full weight of just such an appearance. He was refused research money and raided by the FDA, which seized 200,000 documents from his clinic. But Dr. Burzynski stands by his method of treating cancer with antineoplastons, treating hundreds of patients a year with a relatively high success rate.
In Alternative Medicine, Burton Goldberg claims many of the treatments on the "Unproven Methods" list have never been demonstrated ineffective or dangerous. In fact, Goldberg states, "[These treatments] may not have been subjected to any tests at all -- neither by the American Cancer Society nor by any other agency, public or private. They merely seem ineffective in the light of prevailing theories of cancer etiology and therapy." Unfortunately, any practitioner assigned to this list is automatically considered a dangerous quack. Funding usually vanishes and the treatment fails before it has even undergone rigorous testing.
In fact, more than 100 promising alternative non-patented and nontoxic therapies have already been identified and discredited by the American Cancer Society in this way. Included among these are Tumor Necrosis Factor (originally called Coleys' Toxin), hydrazine sulfate, laetrile, Gersons therapy and Burzynski's antineoplastons. Practitioners, activists and cancer survivors are likening the "Unproven Methods" tactic to witch hunts that unfairly target natural therapies over toxic chemical therapies. Many have even called for a boycott of the ACS.
The American Cancer Society's mission statement says it is "dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service." Unfortunately, the ACS' corporate entanglements, slippery priorities, and lack of vision may constrict this public agency from making any meaningful strides in the war against cancer.
The experts speak on The American Cancer Society The American Medical Association (AMA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and American Cancer Society (ACS), as well as certain large corporations profit from the cancer industry. It is important to emphasize that this confederation of interests known as organized medicine consists principally of medical politicians and business interests, not practicing doctors. Physicians themselves have often objected to the unscientific rejection of alternative therapies and to restrictions on their own freedom to research or administer them.
When Healing Becomes A Crime by Kenny Ausubel, page 445 Having made his decision, Burzynski proceeded to experience, as his Baylor department chairman had predicted he would, the full-scale legal and regulatory terror of county, state, and national authorities. He was investigated by the Board of Ethics of the Harris County Medical Society on the charge of using unapproved medications; he was refused research money by mainstream funders who had previously funded him. Subsequently, he was to have his offices raided by the FDA, which seized 200,000 medical files and documents, and he was placed on the American Cancer Society's "unproven methods" list. He was sued by an insurance company and investigated by a Federal grand jury.
Choices In Healing by Michael Lerner, page 614 Corporate sponsors currently have formed "partnerships" with a number of leading nonprofit organizations, which allows them to pay for the right to use the organizations' names and logos in advertisements. The American Cancer Society reeled in $1 million from SmithKline Beecham for the right to use its logo in ads for Beecham's NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette anti-smoking aids.
Ephedra Fact And Fiction by Mike Fillon, page 149 In spite of the almost universal experience of physicians to the contrary, the American Cancer Society still prattles to the public that their statistics show a higher recovery rate for treated patients as compared to untreated patients. After all, if this were not the case, why would anyone spend the money or accept the pain and disfigurement associated with these orthodox treatments? But how can they get away with such outright lies?
World Without Cancer by G Edward Griffin, page 146
Corporate sponsors have formed "partnerships" with a number of leading nonprofit organizations in which they pay for the right to use the organizations' names and logos in advertisements. Bristol-Myers Squibb, for example, paid $600,000 to the American Heart Association for the right to display the AHA's name and logo in ads for its cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol.
The American Cancer Society reeled in $ 1 million from SmithKline Beecham for the right to use its logo in ads for Beecham's NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette anti-smoking aids. Although the nonprofit organizations involved in these deals deny that the use of their names and logos constitutes an endorsement, the corporate sponsors have no such illusions. "PR pros view those third-party endorsements as invaluable ways to build goodwill among consumers for a client's product line," notes O'Dwyer's PR Services Report. For propriety's sake, however, a bit of discretion is necessary. "Don't use the word 'endorse' when speaking to executives from non-profits about their relationships with the private sector," O'Dwyer's advised. "The preferred non-profit vernacular is: recommended, sponsorship, approved, or partnership."
Trust Us We Are Experts by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, page 16 It is natural for the careerist to gravitate into such apparently humanitarian organizations as the American Cancer Society. Not only does this provide him with the aura of status among his approving friends, but it also provides some pretty nice employment in a low-pressure field devoid of competition or of the economic necessity to show either a profit or even tangible results. In fact, it is the very lack of results that adds stature to his position and importance to his work.
World Without Cancer by G Edward Griffin, page 331 These are the best examples the American Cancer Society spokesman can come up with as proof that there is no suppression of innovation by the medical establishment! Nothing in the history of these innovations, nor of any of the other examples cited in this book, contradicts the view that new ideas often have a difficult time getting established and must face the indifference—and even the hostility—of vested interests.
The Cancer Industry by Ralph W Moss, page 438 …a 60 percent five-year survival rate, but Hodgkin's disease represents only about 1 percent of all cancers. Table 1.4 reflects the best available data on historical trends in cancer patient survival from the NCI Cancer Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program.8 (Results are much less encouraging than those claimed by the American Cancer Society on the basis of the same NCI Data.) This is the case despite the vast sums of money spent over the last 30 years, despite the high priorities for cancer research set by Congress, despite devotion of an entire federal agency (the National Cancer Institute) to the cancer problem, and in the face of continuing misleading and optimistic reassurances by the American Cancer Society.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 15 Each year, thousands of Americans travel to Mexico and Germany to receive Laetrile therapy. They do this because it has been suppressed in the United States. Most of these patients have been told that their cancer is terminal and they have but a few months to live. Yet, an incredible percentage of them have recovered and are living normal lives. However, the FDA, the AMA, the American Cancer Society, and the cancer research centers continue to pronounce that Laetrile is quackery. The recovered patients, they say, either had "spontaneous remissions" or never had cancer in the first place.
World Without Cancer by G Edward Griffin, page 22 It is clear that the American Cancer Society—or at least someone very high within it—is trying to give the American people a good old-fashioned snow job. The truth of the matter is—ACS statistics notwithstanding—orthodox medicine does not have "proven cancer cures," and what it does have is pitifully inadequate considering the prestige it enjoys, the money it collects, and the snobbish scorn it heaps upon those who do not wish to subscribe to its treatments.
World Without Cancer by G Edward Griffin, page 152 "The ordinary observer might assume that the treatments on this list have been demonstrated to be ineffective," continues Dr. Coulter. "That is not the case: they have not been subjected to any testing at all—neither by the American Cancer Society nor by any other agency, public or private. They merely seem ineffective in the light of prevailing theories of cancer etiology and therapy." Dr. Coulter doubts that any procedure on the "Unproven Methods" list will ever obtain the financing or bureaucratic approval needed to establish its therapeutic value. "Hence," he says, "characterizing a cancer therapy as 'unproven' is a self-fulfilling prophecy in the truest sense of the word. Competition by maverick researchers is effectively suppressed."
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 51 Predictably, spokesmen for the cancer establishment deny that the suppression of new ideas even takes place. "As a result of the medical profession's insistence upon reliable standards of proof of cure," according to the American Cancer Society's book Unproven Methods, "the proponents of unproven remedies are prone to charge that they are being persecuted by the 'medical trust' or 'organized medicine' " (ACS, I97ib:i8).
The Cancer Industry by Ralph W Moss, page 435 Another propaganda film with a similar approach was produced by the American Cancer Society and is called Journey Into Darkness. Featuring guest star Robert Ryan as the host, the film is a masterpiece of scripting and acting. Weaving several stories into one, it portrays the mental torture experienced by several cancer victims as they grapple with having to decide whether they should take the advice of their wise and kindly doctor and pursue proven orthodox treatments, or allow their fears and doubts to overcome their judgment and seek the unproven treatments of a medically untrained quack who promises miracle cures but whose only real interest is in how much money the patient can afford to pay. In the end, some make the "right" choice and resolve to follow the guidance of their doctor. Others make the "wrong" choice and begin their long and tragic journey into darkness.
World Without Cancer by G Edward Griffin, page 300
Overview: Is the American Cancer Society more interested in cancer profit than cancer prevention?
B17 and Cancer Prevention