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People Against Cancer (PAC), of Otho, Iowa, offers advice through its "Alternative Therapy Program," said to provide an "extensive report and consultation on treatment options." PAC advocates "medical freedom of choice" and offers literature and counseling about "therapeutic alternatives." PAC memberships range from $35 for "regular" membership to $10,000 for "Golden Circle Patron Membership." Regular membership includes a subscription to Options: Revolutionary Ideas in the War on Cancer, a newsletter that promotes questionable cancer treatments.
PAC's recently published catalog-size booklet offers about 200 books and tapes for sale, nearly all of which promote questionable methods. The booklet states:
You are never told the truth about conventional cancer therapy. For decades, the cancer establishment has foolishly relied upon the crude and primitive treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as their only weapons. These therapies are generally dangerous, toxic, ineffective and highly profitable.
You are also never told the truth about innovative cancer therapies. There are promising new methods of treating cancer that are non-toxic, natural and often inexpensive .
These statements are false. Treatment with anticancer drugs has caused the overall death rate from cancers that usually occur before age 45 to fall sharply and has resulted in long-term survival for many patients. These cancers include Hodgkin's disease and acute childhood leukemia. The overall survival rate from most other cancers has risen slowly, with 5-year survival rates over 50% for cancers of the uterus, larynx, breast, cervix, bladder, prostate, and colon. None of the "alternative" methods Wiewel promotes has been demonstrated to prolong cancer survival time.
PAC's founder and president is Frank D. Wiewel, whose father-in-law was a patient of Lawrence Burton, Ph.D., the developer of immuno-augmentative therapy (IAT). Wiewel began his cancer-related activities as president of the IAT Patient's Association, Inc. (IATPA), which was formed in 1985. IATPA's original purpose was to promote IAT, but its scope gradually expanded to include other dubious cancer methods. In 1990, it was renamed People Against Cancer. In 1991, during a deposition, Wiewel testified that he had completed two years of college, studying liberal arts subjects, and had no training in science, medicine, pharmacy, microbiology, physiology, oncology or hematology .
Wiewel helped persuade Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to spearhead passage of a 1991 law establishing the NIH Office of Unconventional Treatment (now called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) and served on the advisory board for six years.
PAC's financial report for the year ending 12/31/98 states that its gross income was $269,985 for 1998; $293,658 for 1997; $314,830 for 1996; $321,748 for 1995; and $184,065 for 1994 .
Access to PAC's Alternative Therapy Program requires purchase of a "sustaining membership"; completion of a 45-item medical history questionnaire; a complete copy of the patient's medical records; and two blood tests taken within the previous two weeks. Sustaining members also receive two books promoting "alternative" cancer treatments plus a 1-year subscription to PAC's newsletter. Although the Web site lists the cost of sustaining membership as $350, a recent brochure indicates that on January 1, 2000, it was raised to $450 and includes "an even more comprehensive search of treatment options worldwide." The program's goal is:
to provide treatment options for people with cancer. Our aim is to answer the complex questions about treatment alternatives. What therapy might be best? What approach might offer the best chances for survival and quality of life? We feel it is important to understand all options from conventional to alternatives in order for people to make truly informed decisions about treatment. We believe people with cancer have very fundamental rights -- the right to know and the right to choose .
This goal may sound noble, but there is no reason to believe that the evaluation actually provides what it claims. Wiewel is extremely critical of standard treatments and espouses "alternative" methods that have no scientific substantiation. I have obtained information about two women with breast cancer who consulted him.
The first, who met with Wiewel in 1995, had recently been diagnosed and had been advised to have surgery followed -- if the tissue findings warrant them -- by radiation and chemotherapy. Wiewel did not object to the surgery but claimed that radiation and chemotherapy do not prolong overall survival. He also said that he has showed the woman's records to the medical director of the IAT clinic who "saw no demonstrable survival benefit" with mastectomy but thought that IAT could help. Wiewel added that he had sent information about the woman to 30 or 40 other doctors in his network, eight or nine of whom had offered treatment suggestions. He recommended that she look into seven other types of "alternative" approaches. And he advised her to use organic foods, an air purifier, and a water filter to help reduce the odds that her cancer would recur.
The second patient was Janet Ross, who had an advanced case of breast cancer for which standard treatment had little to offer. In 1996, she joined the Alternative Therapy Program and took notes during a lengthy telephone conversation with Wiewel. She and her son Bill concluded that Wiewel's advice -- which included about 30 useless recommendations -- was such a hodgepodge that they did not request a written report. After his mother died, Bill posted the details of their experience on the Health Care Reality Check Web site  and subsequently received a refund plus a "gift membership" in PAC.
Contributions to PAC are tax-deductible for income tax purposes. Federal tax law states that contributions to a charity must be reduced by the fair market value of any goods or services expected or received in exchange . Since a "donation" is required to obtain the service, the cost of a sustaining membership for those who use the Alternative Therapy Program would not be deductible as a charitable contribution. I do not know whether Wiewel informs his sustaining members of this fact.
If you obtain an individual report issued by PAC's Alternative Therapy Program, please send a copy to me at P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105.