Issue 1 Editorial

Integrative cancer and oncology news with articles and the latest news on cancer.

CANCERactive: Intelligent Information.  Independent Voice.
icon magazine is the voice of Britain’s leading Independent cancer charity, CANCERactive.
We want to make it quite clear that we do not receive money from big Pharmaceutical companies, vitamin providers, complementary therapies or alternative practitioners. They do not pay, either directly or indirectly, for our buildings, or our research, or our work, or our salaries, or our expenses. That is not to say they would not be allowed to advertise or sponsor the odd page but it would always be on the strict understanding that not one word of copy or editorial would change as a result. And this is why we can truthfully say ’we are independent’.
Our motives are simple. My daughter developed, and subsequently died from, a glioma. But we made a very good fist of trying to save her, so much so that two top Doctors suggested I write a book about the things I had discovered she survived considerably longer than the six months St Thomas’ had ’given’ her, and much longer than their previous ’best’ of 18 months. Catherine quickly discovered that all the information available on her cancer was negative and limited to orthodox therapies, which even the mighty Lancet said didn’t work. So we went looking for more knowledge, for complementary and alternative therapies, only to find a confused blur of possibility and hype. And so we set out to cut through the crap, to learn the truth, and then to pass on the real information to others so that they did not have to spend (waste) 6 valuable months ’re-inventing the wheel’. Catherine wanted a magazine inside hospitals and a website which would honestly and objectively cover the Truth about any therapy, be it orthodox, complementary or alternative. What works, what doesn’t?  Warts and all. We soon realised that there were so many treatments that could make a real and positive contribution to her health; treatments that were virtually hidden from us.
Because we are independent we can have a totally truthful voice: We will tell you that High-street bottles of Shark Cartilage, or Coral Calcium, B-17, Essiac etc simply do not ’cure’ cancer despite the plethora of web sites (mainly American) claiming they do. (In truth, we do not believe any one thing ’cures’ cancer). However, if there is good quality research telling of real benefits for these compounds we will also tell you that too, and not merely dismiss them as worthless irrelevancies, as some charities do.
So too with radiotherapy or chemotherapy drugs. Some orthodox treatments can and do make a real and positive contribution. However, many do not. The Truth has to be told, not conveniently passed over. Take my recent experiences: In the last month or so I have received 10 or more Press releases claiming in the headline that ’Drug X improves Survival’. To ordinary people this word is highly emotive. It means: ’I can live!’ or at least: ’I can live five years’. However, when I studied the research detail, in every single case the PR machines were over claiming or ’spinning’ the data unless you agree that increasing the average life expectancy of 50 patients from about 8 months to about 10 months is your definition of ’survival’. Unfortunately many journalists are only too eager to join in with the Pharmaceutical companies’ hype. We are not.
Worse still, there are increasingly in our view many inaccuracies in what we hear or read from so-called top cancer ’experts’ and Professors and, at CANCERactive, we recognise a vital need to temper their rhetoric with the intelligent use of the real data. Misinformation, whether accidental or deliberate, is tantamount to quackery and should have no place in the cancer patient’s fight for survival.
You see, we try to tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, in a world of vested interest; a world of hype, spin and over claim, if not sometimes downright lies.  I’m not saying we are perfect.  It is very hard with our meagre resources checking and re-checking everything.  But we do try.  We receive information every month from over 60 top hospitals, renowned cancer units and centres of learning across the globe and we are always updating our intelligence, importantly never afraid to change or modify our views as new research-based evidence presents itself, be it from America, Sweden, Japan or Russia. If someone tells us we have made a mistake and has the evidence to support that claim, we will be the first to change our facts or our views, because only one thing matters to us: Giving patients intelligent truthful information. 
Funding is a worrisome issue for us.  We raise about 250,000 each year a far cry from CancerBackup’s 4-5 million, and even further from CRUK’s 400 million.  For example, every penny from my books, speeches and tours has gone to the charity.  I take absolutely nothing for the work I do.  We have no vested interests, only your well-being.  We do have a link to Natural Selection’s shopping trolley on the web site to enable people to buy good quality anti-oxidants (ie natural ones, not synthetic ones) and other potentially helpful compounds, products they regularly look for elsewhere.  We certainly never claim any are cancer ’cures’, and you can read about their correct benefits supported by research in detail elsewhere on the site.  Quite simply these are products with information you can trust and we do take a very little profit from them.  Finally, I have also donated about 160,000 of my own money to our work. Oh, that we could pay our staff 40,000 per annum like CRUK; or even afford a researcher!  Most of our professional staff are volunteers and happy to do it for nothing or for ’mates rates’.  Almost every penny we raise is spent directly providing you with accurate information to help you beat cancer.
Our aim is to provide the Truth - evidence-based intelligent information - so you can make more informed choices and even build your own personal integrated or holistic treatment programme that will give you a better chance of beating this terrible disease, a total programme including forms of mental therapy, exercise, or supplements and diet for example.  Every little bit helps.
Part of our approach is to help the patient think more clearly about the factors that may have caused the cancer and may well still be maintaining it. We believe there is rarely a single cause of cancer and that your cancer is as individual as you are. We are quite different from the other major UK charities in that we believe that some causal factors may produce direct ’cancer’ changes resulting in rogue cells, while other factors may cause indirect changes, for example by weakening the immune system.  In healthy humans the immune system mops up the rogue cells on a daily basis.  But if there is damage to the immune system, cancer can take a grip.  As a result we feel it wise to adopt a ’Precautionary Stance’ to possible cancer causing factors either direct or indirect.  Where expert scientists have conducted quality research showing heightened risks we will inform you, even if there is conflicting research or the mechanism of cause is not fully understood.  We believe this is the only intelligent approach to take.  Although it is adopted by major charities in other countries, the majority of UK cancer bodies seem determined to wait until something is a proven and fully understood cause. How many more people will have died of cancer by then?
In icon, we do review prostate drugs and breast cancer drugs; and we do accurately cover the latest drug research.  We also cover research indicating the potential causes of cancer like toxins in cosmetics and household products, which are often produced and marketed by the very same chemical companies making the anti-cancer treatments!  (You’ll note a silence from certain other major cancer charities on this issue).
We also cover the benefits of ’complementary and alternative’ therapies including exercise and supplements.  The CEO of one major cancer information charity told me categorically that they would not ’because there is no research evidence to support them’. Twaddle.  We’ve covered the research and clinical trials on all manner of such ’helpful therapies’ from beneficial bacteria and colon cancer, to the clinical trials on meditation prior to surgery, to the US meta-study finding that breast cancer patients who took daily light exercise had 50 per cent less mortality and much, much more.
We are not going to go away (although some factions would like us to). The magazine is now on display in 302 hospitals and complementary centres. You have to ask for it in the Royal Marsden because some Doctor or other doesn’t like it and so it is kept out of his sight (Oh dear!).  And in Christie, Manchester, the information centre is run by a lady from CancerBackup and she has refused us ’because the patients have quite enough information already’ (but none on complementary and alternative therapies!)  No matter. Next year we will be in a number of major local libraries too Manchester libraries already want over 1200 copies.  Even now have a print run of almost 40,000 and over 175,000 readers in the first three weeks of a magazine’s life. The web site receives over 50,000 hits per month.  We expect these figures to double in the next twelve months.
Yes, I do realise we are ’Virgin’ to the ’orthodox’ community’s ’BA’.  But when the CEO of CRUK tells icon in his interview that their aim is ’To get more people on clinical trials than anywhere else in the world, I worry.
Our aim is to be the people’s champion - to help you beat cancer, by providing you with all the essential intelligence to do it.
Why is there this myopia about curing cancer with drugs in Britain?  Australian and US research studies have concluded that only 15 per cent of all drugs have any real positive impact, whilst 5-year cancer survival rates have only improved by about 2.5 per cent despite all the billions of dollars spent on drugs, clinical trials etc.  You might also be aware that (according to Eurocare 3) the UK is below average in 5-year survival rates in Europebut just above the likes of Poland.  Could it have anything to do with the fact that the leaders in the UK’s medical community are blinkered towards chemotherapy and disinterested in complementary and alternative therapies, more so than almost any other country in the Western world? MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has even stated that all the exciting developments in cancer treatments are all coming in areas outside of Chemotherapy! UCLA, MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and others have e newsletters and large web sites dedicated to ’complementary therapies’.  In the UK, you’ve got little old CANCERactive! 
At CANCERactive you can find out the Truth, the Whole Truth with research intelligence from around the world in Cancer Watch, or on meditation, Qi Gong and exercise, or vitamin D and Diet therapies, or on toxic toiletries or mobile phones, masts or mammograms and their risks.  In an easy-to-read format, jargon-free, ’people-speak not doctor-speak’, and each piece written by informed journalists and experts in their field often people who have spent just as long studying naturopathy or acupuncture, or cranial osteopathy or herbs at top universities as any doctor or oncologist.  Intelligent Information.  Independent Voice.
57 per cent of cancer patients now take supplements; 49 per cent use a complementary therapy.  Who’s to say this growth in usage is not, in part, behind the claimed increased survival levels in, say, breast cancer?  If you read our article on the latest research on mammograms you will know that the claims that survival increases are linked to ’better screening’ are wishful nonsense.
So would you like us to stop telling the Truth?  To stop being an Independent Voice whose only concern is your welfare?
From the letters and e-mails that come in to us I very much doubt it. I thank you so much for the continuous praise and support you provide.  For CANCERactive it’s you, the patient that matters. (And the wonderfully supportive nurses.) 
The road has been hard and now the success we have achieved brings a whole new set of problems from people with vested interests who criticise us without reason or logic, to an increased need for funds. And, oh boy, do we need more funds!
But if we can help individual people through the mass of vested interest, spin, hype, over claim and lies so that they can stand a better chance of beating this awful disease then we will have made a real contribution to the world and Catherine will not have died for nothing. And as Catherine once said, Dad, I’m not interested in cancer, I’m interested in living’. Now, we’d like to help you too.
Chris Woollams and Lindsey Fealey

icon Volume 6 Issue 2 2007
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