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Alternative Cancer Remedies

Alternative Remedies and Congress

Late , in Part Two of this book, you will read about more than fifty alternative treat- ments for cance .

Over the years, the ongoing battle over them has sometimes led to congressional hearings. But one such case resulted in a law by the U.S. Congress, mandating that research studies be undertaken to verify ex- isting alternative methods of treating can- cer or produce new ones.

This law resulted from two facts which, in the course of years, had become very obvious:

First, the orthodox methods of treating can- cer (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) rarely extend life more than one to three years.

Second, when alternative methods have been proposed, many of which seem to produce re- markable success, they have generally been hounded to death by the major cancer organiza- tions.

Here is how the law came about: In July 1985, the National Cancer Institute and certain other U.S. agencies managed to get the Bahamian Health Department to close Dr. Lawrence Burton’s Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT) Centre, located in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

When that happened, a large number of wealthy cancer victims, who had been taking treatment at Burton’s hospital, were aroused to a white-hot anger. They demanded that the U.S. Congress take action. Guy Molinari, a New York congressional representative, with the help of 38 other representatives, moved on Congress to re- quest the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to investigate Burton’s IAT.

Although the original request was for the test- ing of IAT, it was later expanded into a full-scale evaluation of alternative cancer remedies. This investigation resulted in the longest, most expen- sive, and most controversial study that OTA ever produced.

John Gibbons, OTA director, summarized

the reasons for the study in these words: “To thousands of patients, mainstream medicine’s role in cancer treatment is not suffi- cient . . The attractiveness of unconventional cancer treatments may stem in part from the acknowledged inadequacies of current medi- cally accepted treatments, and from the too fre- quent inattention of mainstream medical re- search and practice, to the wider dimensions of a cancer patient’s concerns.”—Office of Tech- nology Assessment, Congress of the United States, Unconventional Cancer Treatments, September 1990.

In the request, John Dingell, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on En- ergy and Commerce, asked that the following points be covered in the OTA study:

  • The types of uncoventional cancer treat-

ments most available to Americans.

  • How people gain access to unconventional


  • Costs and means of payment.

  • Profiles of typical users of unconventional


  • Legal issues.

  • The potential for increasing our knowledge

about the efficiency and safety of these cancer treatments.

The OTA study began in 1986 and contin- ued for four years. Throughout that entire time, charges of bias, conflicts of interest, and cover- ups were hurled back and forth by various in- terests.

Finally, in 1990, the 312-page report was re- leased to Congress. The Associated Press head- lined the story, “Federal Study Urges Testing of Unconventional Cancer Treatments.” But op- ponents denounced it as “bad science” and “bi- ased research.”

The OTA report called on Congress to pro- vide funds for research into alternative cancer methods. Based on that report, the National Can- cer Institute, which receives the largest portion of government funds, was told by Congress to

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