Ten Ways to Recognize
Ineffective Cancer Treatment

ASCO Subcommittee on Unorthodox Therapies
Published by Adria Laboratories (1984)

Over the years. there have been many treatments introduced for cancer that don't work. Sometimes the promoters of these treatments know that they're ineffective, and so they're knowingly committing fraud. It may also happen that certain people who back ineffective treatments are simply carried away by their ignorance and hopes. What's important, though, is that the treatments promoted as "sure cures" simply don't work. This booklet will help teach you to recognize treatments that don't work by giving you ten common sense questions to ask when any claims are made for cancer remedies.

It's very important that people with cancer and their families and friends be able to spot ineffective remedies, since such remedies will probably continue to be offered as long as the problem of cancer remains. For people who have cancer that isn't curable by present methods, these treatments raise false hopes and result in the wasting of needed finances. It's even sadder when a patient who can be cured dies because one of these ineffective treatments is used instead of treatment that has been shown scientifically to be effective. Even though anybody who offers a medicine is legally required to prove that the medicine is effective, it's very hard to enforce the laws that are on the books.

Promoters are constantly coming up with different, useless treatments for which they make great promises. It usually takes several years to convince the public that these treatments don't work and to put the promoters out of business. During the period in which they operate, though, they can do a lot of harm. That's why it's important to be able to spot an ineffective treatment quickly. Here, then, are ten questions you should ask whenever you hear someone make a claim of cure for a cancer treatment:

1. Is the treatment based on an unproved theory?

Many promoters of ineffective remedies use confusing, scientific-sounding language to describe the remedy, and they often present the patient with a lot of printed literature. But it's easy enough for anyone with a few dollars to have literature printed. What you have to check is whether or not the claims have been published in a reputable scientific journal. First, find out where the claims for the treatment were printed. Recognized scientific journals are indexed in a computer called the National Library of Medicine Medlars Search Computer. A good library can use the computer to help you check whether the publication is reputable. {AII claims published in reputable journals are reviewed first by other scientists to make sure that they're honest and make sense. If the claims don't pass this test, they won't be published. On the other hand. if promoters pay for their own literature, they can print what they wan—at least until the law catches up with them}But, unfortunately, that may take some time.

Let's look at the record of five of the most notorious ineffective remedies promoted for cancer over the last 30 years:

Hoxsey's Herbal Tonic Treatment. This created a big furor in the 1950s. It was composed of ten herbs found in a field where Hoxsey's great-grandfather's horse grazed. Hoxsey claimed the horse was cured of a leg cancer by eating those herbs. Naturally, he offered no proof that the treatment worked, and published nothing in any scientific journal. Still, it took ten years of legal efforts on the part of the government to get the courts to pull Hoxsey's hoax off the market. In the meanwhile, Hoxsey made a lot of money, cured nobody and didn't even have to pay a fine.

Kreblozen. This was the big cancer cure of the 1960s. Supposedly, it was an extract of the blood of 2,000 horses that had been inoculated with a special fungus. Actually, it turned out to be only mineral oil, was finally proved to be worthless and the public's interest fell off. One of the promoters left the United States for Switzerland where, of course, he had bank accounts. While nothing was published about Krebiozen in reputable scientific journals, the product was given a certain scientific prestige because it was backed by a distinguished professor at a large university. The catch was that this professor had no training or experience in the cancer field, and his claims for the effectiveness of the product were completely unsupported.

Laetrile. In the 1970s, Laetrile was the all-time success of worthless cancer remedies. Even today, despite the fact that it has been proved ineffective in a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, many cancer patients are receiving Laetrile, wasting money, raising false hopes and, sometimes, refusing treatments that could really help them. No evidence has been published in any reputable journal that supports any of the theories on which the use of Laetrile is based. In fact, all reports in reputable journals indicate that Laetrile is useless in cancer treatment. Court records in cases against Laetrile smugglers have shown that one of them had banked more than S2.5 million and another, S1.2 million. With this amount of money involved, it's no wonder that unscrupulous promoters are eager to push treatments proved worthless.

IAT (lmmunoaugmentative Therapy). The promoters of this preparation claim that it "bolsters deficient immune mechanisms present in cancer victims." While this sounds like some theories that serious scientists are studying, no data has ever been published in reputable journals that shows that the specific, product being sold actually produces the effect claimed for it.

lscador. This is a preparation made from five kinds of • mistletoe. Its promoters claim that to make it properly, they must pay attention to the time of picking because of the influences of the sun, moon and planets. Needless to say, no proof of effectiveness has been published in any recognized scientific journal.

2. Is there a need for special nutritional support when the remedy ls used?

Because food is so important to human life, a large body of folklore has grown up over the centuries about the medicinal value of certain foods. Proper nutrition is indeed important to maintain health, and it's especially important for people with cancer to follow their doctors' instructions about good nutrition. Still, a lot of faddists have taken advantage of our feelings about food and made a cult of so-called natural foods. They've even gone so far as to claim that certain natural diets can cure cancer. It's no wonder, then, that four of the five useless remedies discussed above call for special nutritional supplementation to get the full effect. Krebiozen was the only one of these "remedies" that made no special nutritional demands.

3. Is there a claim made for harmless, painless, nontoxic treatment?

Promoters have found that one of the surest ways to attract customers is to claim that their treatment is harmless, painless and nontoxic, as opposed to proved scientific treatments like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. All five of the "remedies" discussed above make this claim. Unfortunately, while the "remedies" may sometimes be harmless (and even this isn't always the case), they don't work either. Still, it's an attractive claim. Beware of it.

4. Are claims published frequently in the mass media?

 Since the phony cure promoters can't publish in recognized scientific journals, they turn to the mass media---including books, newspapers, magazines and TV. The media are frequently hungry for good "stories," and don't pay as much attention as they should to what lies behind the promoters' claims Many people believe that claims for health products must t5e hue or else they wouldn't be allowed in the media. This is simply not the case. The Food and Drug Administration can AA only against misleading drug labels, but not against incorrect statements or distortions of fact in the media. That's why the health hustler can often get away with a great deal of downright lying. All five of these phony cures have cleverly used the mass media. Also, they have published their own literature, which pretends to be scientific.

5. Are the claims of benefit due just to the power of suggestion?

The main promotional gimmick for the phony cure promoter is the grateful, emotional testimonial giver. Many people who give testimonials are sincere in their belief that they've been helped, whether they've actually been helped or not. It's a tragic fact that many testimonials of cure have been given shortly before the patient died of cancer. Why. then, do such patients feel they've been cured? Often, it's simply the power of suggestion. Doctors call the result the "placebo effect." A "placebo" is the name given to a supposed drug (usually water, a sugar pill or another harmless substance) which has no therapeutic action. Human beings are very susceptible to suggestion, particularly when they're ill and desperate for hope. When the supposed cancer expert gives them a so-called drug and promises they're sure to feel better, they often respond for a while by actually feeling less pain, eating better and thinking they're getting well.

Unfortunately, these results generally don't last long. The only kind of evidence of cure that is accepted as scientifically valid is objective evidence. An example of objective evidence is a measurable decrease in the size of the cancer. None of the five phony cures produced any objective evidence, but they all relied on testimonials. With the Hoxsey cure, it was found that some of the patients never had cancer in the first place—they'd simply diagnosed themselves. Naturally, they were easy to cure. Others had already been cured by recognized medical methods, but thought they were still sick. It was easy for Hoxsey to take credit for curing these people, too. A third group, who also claimed to be cured, actually still had cancer, and died shortly after giving their testimonials. All these "cures," then, were due to the power of suggestion.

6. Are the major promoters recognized experts In cancer treatment?

Anybody can claim to be an expert on any subject, but there is a good way to find out if someone is really qualified to treat cancer. There are a number of directories you can consult, and your library can help you locate these directories. Some of these include the Directory of Medical Specialists, and the directories of the American Federation of Clinical Oncologic Societies, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. These directories list individuals who have recognition, special training and experience in the fields of cancer research and treatment.

It's very rare to find a promoter of an unproved cancer treatment with any credentials that even remotely suggest he or she really knows anything about cancer. For example, the key promoter of IAT is a zoologist without training in medicine, cancer research, or treatment. While the leading lscador promoters are physicians, none has general recognition of any special expertise in the field of cancer. Similarly, the promoters of Laetrile, Krebiozen and Hoxsey's Herbal Tonic Treatment lack meaningful credentials.

7: Do the promoters back up their claims with controlled studies?

While the promoters of unproved cures claim excellent results, they never have controlled studies to back up their claims. What are controlled studies? They are studies that compare cancer patients receiving the treatment with a group of "control" patients, that is, randomly selected cancer patients, similar in number, age. sex distribution and type of cancer to the treated patients. The control patients don't receive the treatment, and only by comparing the differences in results between the treated and untreated patients can the effectiveness of a treatment be judged.

There are no controlled studies available from the promoters of any of the five so-called cures. Very often, the promoters claim they have neither the time nor personnel to make such studies. Hoxsey and a Laetrile clinic in Mexico made such claims. Considering the millions of dollars they've collected on their phony cures, you'd think they could arrange for such studies the way reputable pharmaceutical companies do. But the reason they don't, of course, is that they know what the results would be.

8. Is there a claim that only specially trained physicians can produce results with
their drug, or is the formula a secret and available only from the promoters?

One or both of these situations applied to all the five so-called cures. For example, the Laetrile promoters state that you must be a "trained metabolic physician" to get results with Laetrile. What this really means is that the drug will work only for strong Laetrile proponents. With IAT, on the other hand. the formula is secret and only its promoters can make it up for distribution. published in recognized scientific journals. The special training required to administer such drugs is training in the understanding and treatment of cancer, the kind of training common sense demands of a doctor treating a serious. life-threatening disease.

9. Do the promoters attack the medical and scientific "establishments"?

Such an attack is a favorite trick of phony cure promoters. They claim that the scientific, medical, government and pharmaceutical "establishment" are in a "conspiracy" to prevent a cancer cure. Why? Because treating cancer is so lucrative. (Of course, they don't mention the amount of money they're taking in from unwitting patients.)

If you think about this for a few moments, you realize how ridiculous the whole idea is. After all, the "establishment" managed to come up with ways to prevent smallpox, polio and measles, and with cures for a vast range of infectious diseases to cite a few examples . Why shouldn't doctors want to cure , cancer? Doctors, government officials, scientists and pharmaceutical executives and members of their families all can get cancer. Don't you think they'd jump at the idea of a cure like anyone else?

10. Is there a demand by promoters for "freedom of choice" as regards drugs?

All five promoters claimed the American public's freedom of choice would be limited if they weren't allowed to peddle their products. This is a great ploy, since we've revered the word "freedom" for more than 200 years now. Unfortunately, the freedom the promoters are talking about is their freedom to sell worthless and unproved products. American law does protect the freedom of informed choice. It doesn't protect the freedom to sell snake oil, just as it doesn't protect the freedom to shout fire, when there is no fire, in a crowded theater, and cause people to stampede each other to death. The freedom to misrepresent facts in drug labeling and selling is no freedom at all, but simply a license to steal from a helpless public. So think twice the next time you hear a promoter raise the "freedom of choice" issue.

Here's a table that shows you at a glance the ten questions you should ask about any cancer treatment, and the answers to these questions for five of the most recent popular phony treatments:

How Five Phony Treatments Fail the Ten-Question Test
Question Hoxsey Krebiozen Laetrile IAT Iscador
1. Is the treatment based on an unproved theory? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2. Is there a need for special nutritional support when the remedy ls used? Yes No Yes Yes Yes
3. Is there a claim made for harmless, painless, nontoxic treatment? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
4. Are claims published frequently in the mass media? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
5. Are the claims of benefit due just to the power of suggestion? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
6. Are the major promoters recognized experts In cancer treatment? No No No No No
7: Do the promoters back up their claims with controlled studies? No No No No No
8. Is there a claim that only specially trained physicians can produce results with their drug, or is the formula a secret and available only from the promoters? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
9. Do the promoters attack the medical and scientific "establishments"? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
10. Is there a demand by promoters for "freedom of choice" as regards drugs? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

While cancer is a deadly disease, it's important to remember that many forms of cancer are curable, and even when a complete cure is not yet available, many other forms of cancer respond dramatically to recognized medical treatment. Physicians, nurses, social workers, hospitals and various legitimate cancer societies all stand ready to help people with cancer, and their families. If you have cancer, you should seek help as quickly as possible from these legitimate sources, for they can really do something for you. And you should encourage members of your family or friends with cancer to do the same.

Unfortunately, though, because the problem of cancer hasn't been completely solved, there are always promoters who will try to turn a fast buck (and in many cases a fast million bucks) promoting cures that are worthless. These promoters not only take money from cancer victims, but they sometimes literally take their lives as well, for they discourage them from finding easily available treatment that really works. Luckily, you can recognize phony cancer treatment pretty easily by following through on the ten questions discussed in this pamphlet. Don't let yourself be a victim. Don't let family members or friends be victims. Remember, you do have freedom of choice between scientifically valid, effective treatment, and worthless treatment that will simply enrich unscrupulous promoters. Make sure you make the right choice.

This article was prepared by the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Subcommittee on Unorthodox Therapies, chaired by Daniel S. Martin, M.D., and published as a professional service by Adria Laboratories in May 1984.

This article was posted on February 17, 2018.

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