I have a problem with CANCERactive. Nothing personal, it’s to do with the claims they make. On the face of it, as the evidence in the posts below shows, their main source of income is the sale of quack cancer “cures”, the advice they give is badly out of line with the scientific consensus, and they make greatly inflated claims of their and their founder’s importance.

  • Britain´s Number 1 holistic cancer charity” or “the UK’s number 1 cancer charity for evidence-based information on holistic cancer therapies” – these claims use the typical SCAM tactic of implying that medicine is not holistic. That is bullshit. Britain has a number of highly regarded cancer charities, all of which are holistic in that they give information on lifestyle support, health and wellness, treatment options and palliative care. They may be Britain’s number one cancer quackery charity, but even that is open to doubt and in any case I won’t challenge that claim until they make it.
  • Chris Woollams is “The UK’s number 1 cancer researcher”. Absolute nonsense. PubMed shows zero publications by Woollams, no relevant hits naming Woollams, no hits for CANCERactive. This claim is simply unsupportable.
  • The claim to give advice “based on the research that is available, interpreted in a balanced way“. This is provably false. Their page on [R:Gerson therapy] is largely uncritical, whereas the scientific consensus is that “[a]vailable scientific evidence does not support any claims that Gerson therapy can treat cancer” (CRUK). This is the fallacy of false balance, endemic in SCAM, which asserts that the scientific consensus should be “balanced” by an uncritical presentation – the same “balance” would give parity of platform to NASA and moon hoaxers. To place an elephant on one side of the scales and a feather on the other, and assert that the scales are level, is not balance in any meaningful sense of the word.
  • The charity only spends about a third of its income on its charitable purpose, according to its returns to the Charity Commissioners. This is extremely low. Their costs, especially accountancy costs, also seem very high for a charity this size.
  • Their finances are undoubtedly very curious. The charity prominently promotes a company whose shareholders are the charity’s founder and his cousin, until recently both the charity and the company were at the same address. It is acceptable for a charity to run a trading subsidiary, but that is not how this has been put together. Instead the charity is driving traffic to a company controlled by the charity’s founder through his own company registered in the British Virgin Islands through. To say that this is irregular is putting it mildly.
  • The charity appears to be in violation of the Charities Act, which forbids using a charity for significant personal gain. Founder Chris Woollams appears to benefit form the charity as a platform promoting hio as an expert, on the back of which he appears to sustain an international public speaking career. Whether or not this is the sole source of promotion, the charity undoubtedly does promote Woollams in the most forceful terms – as “the UK’s number 1 cancer researcher”, “cancer guru” and so on.
  • The charity also appears to be violating the Cancer Act, discussing products as cures for cancer and then selling the same products through off-the-page links to the company apparently controlled by Woollams.  The links promote “products of choice” – a description which matches the largest single item in the charity’s income, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the charity’s main source of income is the sale of products advertised as curing or treating cancer. Which is illegal. Woollams has used the site’s blog as a platform to campaign against the cancer act.
  • Finally, their response to discussion of some of these anomalies was to reach for a libel lawyer and issue threats against Professor Daid Colquhoun. Quite aside fomr the fact that a simple request for clarification would almost certainly have worked, use of libel law to stifle criticism has been a stable feature of quacks and charlatans in recent time – they are keeping some very bad company including the BCA, Matthias Rath and sundry others. A brief inspection of how those libel suits went for the plaintiffs (i.e. expensively and very publicly wrong) should have been enough of a clue that this was not a good idea.
Overall, then, I am of the view that this is a charity which should not be a charity, a business which is trading illegally in usually unproven or discredited cures for cancer, and a man who crossed the woobicon so long ago that he has forgotten how disconnected from reality the world of alternatives-to-medicine is these days. I have sympathy for Chris Woollams: it is hard to see how he will get out of this without trashing his own reputation and that of his charity. I will not lament is one more source of cancer quackery vanishes, but nobody likes to see a man waste so much effort motivated by a genuine desire to help aligned with an apparent lack of sufficient critical appraisal of the claims of miracle cure peddlers Which of course is why the Cancer Act exists in the first place..

Posts discussing CANCERactive

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13 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Moriaty

    I’m just curious as to what qualifies you as an authority on this particular subject over the people at CancerACTIVE? Surely we are all free to make our own choices and if we choose to go to CA for alternative therapies, that is our choice?

    Reply

    • It’s not about choice, in medicine there is general consensus that informed choice is what matters. The scientific consensus does not care whether something started out as a herb or as a totally synthetic molecule, science is like the English language: rapacious in taking up anything new that can be shown to have any provable utility and totally unrespecting what is “proper” (as we see with stories that the definition of literally now includes its antonym, figuratively).

      CANCERactive do not inform choice, in fact they misinform it. If you compare their advice on virtually anything with the neutral pages at CRUK, ACS, Wikipedia, NCI and the like, you find that CANCERactive consistently represent as miraculous, things that have been tried and found wanting.

      Example: Gerson therapy. Scientific consensus is that it is scientifically unsupported and potentially hazardous. See these links:
      * http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=496
      * http://gerson.org/gerpress/the-gerson-therapy/
      * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Gerson
      * http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/gerson-therapy
      * http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/gerson-therapy
      * http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/gerson/patient/page1

      So, CANCERactive’s coverage is similar in tone to the Gerson Institute (who profit from it). Every neutral site – Wikipedia, CRUK, ACS, NCI – is unanimous that this is unproven and potentially dangerous. In fact that is scientific caution since the truth (as per http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-not-so-beautiful-untruth-about-the-gerson-therapy-and-cancer-quackery/) is that it is not just unproven but nonsense.

      We do not get to choose, if we are unlucky enough to suffer from cancer, whether our bodies have human physiology. If something does not work, representing it as effective but “suppressed” by a mysterious conspiracy involving at a conservative estimate at least half a million doctors, scientists, patients, politicians and nurses, which has never once had a single breach of security or whistleblower, not just irresponsible but delusional.

      It’s fine to wish that Gerson worked, quite another thing to say that it does when all the available evidence says not only that it doesn’t, but that it is actively dangerous.

      And this is before you get to the fact that their activities are almost certainly illegal, in that they promote “cures” and gain most of their income from sales of the self-same “cures”.

      The claim that Chris Woollams is “The UK’s No. 1 cancer researcher”, used by him in promoting his speaking career and having no source other than CANCERactive, is simply false. His total contribution to cancer research is, as far as the published record can tell, precisely zero. Nothing. Not even in the junk journals that PubMed inexplicably indexes. Yet based on this claim he used CANCERactive as a platform to attack CRUK, a genuine charity that raises and spends vast sums for cancer research. CANCERactive has zero published research output, CRUK has recently supported substantial advances in our understanding of the genetic basis of cancer. Nobody in their right mind would believe CANCERactive over CRUK when the two conflict, as they do on virtually everything. CRUK has the resources to check facts, including scientists to investigate things that have not otherwise been investigated, CANCERactive has no resources and its sole researcher appears to be a man who seems to believe his own grossly inflated PR.

      Reply
      • Karen Astrid

        Did you know Chris set this charity up because of his daughter?

        Reply

        • Of course. Do you think that gives him a free pass when promoting bullshit? I don’t.

          Reply
          • Karen Astrid

            Angry much?! I just mean I don’t think he’s as cynical as you are inferring in some of your blog posts as his daughter has recovered well using a variety of methods, maybe he’s genuinely trying to share their discoveries and has just gone about it in the wrong way.


          • Yes I am angry. Woollams is promoting quackery, often dangerous quackery, pretending to be a trustworthy source of information, and attacking charities that (unlike him) provide unbiased and objective information.

    • Chris Beckett (chrisb1)

      Woollams is not promoting quackery but actual science. It is bigoted people like you who play with train sets that indicates a mentality that has not yet grown out of their childhood mental limitations and fantasies.

      Your a denialist Guy refusing any substantial evidence on alternative healthcare and an apologist for drugs and drugs only in the treatment of disease.

      Reply

      • That’s what he says, yes. Unfortunately he seems to lack the critical faculties necessary to distinguish between science, pseudoscience and outright quackery.

        As I’ve pointed out, the difference between his page on laetrile and the pages of every single reputable source, is indicative of the problem.

        Reply

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