Vested Interests

CANCERactive: Intelligent Information. Independent Voice.

CANCERactive, and icon magazine are the voice of Britain’s leading Independent cancer Charity.

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 overclaiming 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 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 overclaim, 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 links to Natiural 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. 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?

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.

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Professor Waxman of CRUK and Imperial College ’fame’ has recently committed himself to print in a ’Personal View’ in BMJ, November 2006. Apparently he has research that says changing your diet when you have cancer makes not one jot of difference to the outcome. Can this really be true? What credence should we give then to quality research from Harvard, UCLA, MD Anderson, the Mayo clinic and others on the benefits to various cancer patients of (for example) vitamins D and K, or lycopene, ellagic acid, green tea and astragalus? We have chronicled the intelligent information on all of these in our magazine and on our web site.

Interestingly, Professor Waxman’s piece opened Pandora’s box. The e mails rushed out to BMJ either saying how right he was or how wrong. Correspondents took ’sides’. (Sadly, one would have hoped for a bit more gravitas from some of the ’expert’ squabblers).

The Truth comes back largely to vested interests again. Unless you have spent the last 30 years living on a remote Pacific atoll, you are probably aware of the huge bonds that link Pharmaceutical companies to Government and to the UK’s medical research and educational establishments. Waxman has apparently lived on just such an atoll. He dives in with both feet implying that the organic food industry is driven by gullible cancer patients (according to our research, quite inaccurate - he could easily have rung Tesco or Sainsbury and discovered the true facts); then criticising the massive 250 million Complementary and Alternative business and saying supplements should be regulated as drugs ’for that’s how they market themselves’.

Er, no. I have yet to be invited to a round of golf, a lap dancing club or to dog racing by a vitamin company (please don’t bother!). My staff have not been paid to ’tip off’ vitamin sales reps on the relevant illnesses of people confidentially contacting us. I haven’t noticed a vitamin company stumping up a whopping $386 million out of court rather than being found guilty of charges of trying to bribe US doctors to prescribe its prostate treatment. And I haven’t noticed a vitamin company turning in over $8 billion in profit in 2006/7. (Yet we have recorded all these stories about Pharmaceutical companies ’marketing’ in Cancer Watch in the last few years because they can and do influence the treatments you are offered for your cancer).  What was that about people in glass houses?

(Oh dear, that’s torn it. No Pharmaceutical funding for us 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 CancerBackup 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. We can ’do’ marketing too! Ignore us at your cost. But CancerBackup do. They refuse to include us in any of their listings, whilst we include them in all of ours.

Yes, I do realise we are Virgin to their BA. And to CRUK’s  too: we cover all their press releases, but can’t get a referral from them either. But then their objectives (as defined by their CEO in icon ) are somewhat different to ours: ’To get more people on clinical trials than anywhere else in the world. That’ll make a big difference.


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! 

So would you like us to stop telling the Truth? To stop being an Independent Voice whose only concern is your welfare?

In just one month in Autumn 2006 our web site provider’s mainframe blew up an extremely rare occurrence (lucky we had a copy of the site on disc or the whole charity would have been lost); suddenly trojans appeared in my computer stopping my writing and putting all my work at risk; our office phones went down; our e newsletter provider’s computer crashed for the first time ever; we even had a man launch a ’blocking’ web site www.canceractive.co.uk under our own www.canceractive.com. This site had links that went nowhere and were rubbish but many potential readers went to this site believing it was the real CANCERactive site.  Finally, I was personally warned not to ’upset’ the big pharmaceutical companies. Do we have anything to fear or is it simply paranoia caused by cumulative co-incidence?

One direct ’attack’ on us came from d.colquhoun@ucl.ac.uk the personal web site of Professor Colquhoun of UCL*, which is ’devoted to giving publicity to assorted dubious, erroneous, nutty, or downright fraudulent claims’. On this you will find a heading entitled ’Bad Cancer Advice’. And if you click that you will find it’s, yes, us!

Apparently one of our Patrons, Dr Michael Dixon OBE, who is Vice Chair of the Prince of Wales Trust is not interested in evidence-based information according to Colquhoun, two of our products of choice are not cancer cures (we never said they were; and in fact at the top of the page we say clearly that they are not) and you have to question our motives. (Is my daughter dying of cancer not enough?!).

Clearly Colquhoun is not too hot on the laws of libel in the UK. So I wrote to him and said that I would have expected better research from a UCL Professor (we have 20+ patrons including Professors Howell, Powles, Sikora, Leifert - why did he single out just one to libel). And the behind-the-cycle sheds-snide-remarks were pathetic. His initial reply? ’I haven’t looked at the site for 6 months. His correspondence simply tried to shrug off the various libelous comments. Can we be bothered to sue? No, these people live in their own little worlds, ones that derive pleasure from making snidey comments about a charity trying to do some good. As someone famous once said, ’There are those that do. And there are those that criticise’.

So are you getting the picture? The full picture? THE TRUTH of what it takes to bring this web site and magazine to you, whilst  priding itself on independence and honesty, with limited funds, and no vested interests solely to help you try to beat (or prevent) a cancer??In recent correspondence he is still trying to shrug off his various libelous comments.


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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 Intelligent and  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, overclaim 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

*NB Interested (?) parties can access his website and write to him as follows
Entitled DC’s IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page ....

"This page is devoted to giving publicity to assorted dubious, erroneous, nutty, or downright fraudulent claims about drugs and other sorts of treatment. It includes, but is not restricted to, so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (acroynym,(sic) SCAM). In particular, it is about the incursion of such ideas into universities".
Written by David Colquhoun. [email me.
Alias for this page: www.dcquack.org.uk (email david@dcquack.org.uk.)
 
Chris Woollams writes

Unfortunately I could find very little about ’downright fraudulent claims about drugs’ on DC’s website, which seems a bit odd since there are so many of them in the public domain. As a result I shall be publishing a QuacksCorner section under my name on the CANCERactive website where, in line with our ’Intelligent Information. Independent Voice’ stance we will highlight all ’purveyors of snake oils to the vulnerable’ for example, the quacks who claim high street bottles of shark cartilage cure cancer and equally those drug companies who have been found guilty in courts of law in the UK and the USA for fraud, bribery etc - even if sadly some do contribute directly or indirectly to the workings, research, salaries, whatever of UCL.

I welcome readers of my e newsletter to send me such articles for consideration. We will of course pass all truthful claims on to the famous Professor so that he can rebalance his site in line with his claims.

Chris Woollams Quack Watch
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