By Todd Ackerman
Breast cancer patients are increasingly having preventive surgery to remove the unaffected breast, but a new study suggests it’s not beneficial for the vast majority of women who undergo it.
Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday reported that an analysis of the records of more than 100,000 patients revealed a survival benefit in 6 percent of those who opted to have a double mastectomy. Most who benefited fit a particular profile that doctors can easily identify at diagnosis.
“It’s important for women to understand that, except for one subset of breast cancer patients, they don’t need to do this,” said Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian, an M.D. Anderson professor of surgical oncology and one of the study’s two lead authors. “Hopefully, it’ll reassure patients wondering if they should.”
The observational study, which was published online Thursday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found a double mastectomy offers a slight but real benefit to patients 50 and younger whose cancer is estrogen receptor negative and in the early stages. The study is the first to find such an association between the procedure and survival.
The study found no benefit among patients 60 or older undergoing a double mastectomy and murky results among those aged 50 to 60.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer are known to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer in the opposite breast. But the study found that preventive surgery on the opposite breast had little survival benefit, save for the one subset, either because patients die from the cancer they already have or from other medical conditions, or because the risk isn’t realized in their lifetime.
The number of double mastectomies has grown dramatically in recent years. Many patients who choose that option say they do so because it gives them peace of mind.
Previous studies have found that the number more than doubled from 1998 to 2003, and Bedrosian said based on her experience the trend has seemingly continued to escalate. Statistics from 2003 show 11 percent of women having a mastectomy opted for one in their disease-free breast as well.
The increase is attributed to scans that can detect smaller, earlier cancers; genetic tests that can warn women of the inherited risk they face; and better plastic surgery techniques that make reconstructive surgery more appealing than it once was.
Bedrosian’s team identified 107,106 women in the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results registry who had a mastectomy to treat Stage I to Stage III breast cancer. Among that group, 8,902 women also had their unaffected breast removed.
At a five-year follow-up, 88.5 percent of those who had the elective mastectomy were alive, compared to 83.7 of those who didn’t.
After controlling for different variables, the M.D. Anderson team found that the younger women with early-stage tumors not fueled by estrogen had a survival benefit of 4.8 percent at five years, meaning for every 100 patients, fewer than five who would have died without the additional surgery were still alive. The prognosis is usually poorer for estrogen receptor-negative patients.
No other group showed a clear benefit.
One expert’s response to the data was to recommend that any woman requesting an elective mastectomy wait a year before having it done.
“In a younger woman with (estrogen receptor)-negative disease, an (elective) mastectomy may be considered,” said Dr. Victor Vogel, national vice president for research at the American Cancer Society. “In the vast majority of women older than 50 with ER-positive disease, prudent waiting is probably the most appropriate.”
Information for patients
One of Bedrosian’s patients was happy to have the data. Diagnosed in December with Stage II estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, the 33-year-old woman hadn’t thought of a double mastectomy until learning of her particular susceptibility to the disease spreading.
“For me, it was a very matter-of-fact decision,” said Rachel Jackson, an Austin triathlete who has yet to schedule either mastectomy. “I’m planning to live to 70 or 80.”
Nearly 200,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 40,000 die of it. The majority do not have mastectomies.
Bedrosian emphasized that the study findings should not be interpreted as “a uniform mandate.”
“This is still a decision to be made by the patient after talking with her doctor,” Bedrosian said. “A younger woman with early-stage ER-negative breast cancer might have good reason not to want a (double) mastectomy, and an older woman — say, with a significant family history — might have good reason to want one.”
February 26, 2010
By Carolyn Thompson
One of the first things Mike Ameroso asked while contemplating robotic surgery for his prostate cancer was how many surgeries his doctors had done with the robot.
He liked the idea of the robot’s smaller incision and steady miniature “hands” and the promise of less pain and a quick recovery — but had his doctors put in time at the controls?
After all, “an aircraft is only as good as the pilot who flies it,” concurred Thenkurussi Kesavadas as he and Ameroso took part Thursday in the rollout of a new robotic surgery simulator that lets surgeons practice endlessly in a field that’s growing by leaps and bounds.
The “RoSS” simulator closely approximates the touch and feel of the widely used da Vinci robotic surgical system. It was developed through a collaboration between the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and University at Buffalo, where Kesavadas heads the Virtual Reality Lab.
Nearly all prostate surgeries in the United States are now performed by robot, with doctors peering through a viewfinder at a magnified image and moving instruments in the air to control the ones inside the patient. Robotic systems are increasingly being used in everything from weight loss surgery to children’s operations.
Ameroso’s successful 2007 surgery made him a believer. The 68-year-old Amherst resident came out of it not only cancer-free but pain-free and with only a half-inch incision.
But “it is never about the machine,” said Dr. Khurshid Guru, a surgeon and director of the Center for Robotic Surgery at Roswell Park in Buffalo. “What’s more important than the machine is the person who manages or operates the machine.”
Guru and Kesavadas co-founded a spin-off company, Simulated Surgical Systems LLC, to commercialize the RoSS simulator and have already taken five orders for the roughly $100,000 machines.
The simulator uses virtual reality technology developed over 10 years at UB to let surgeons practice anything from cutting tissue and sewing incisions to full procedures and versions of procedures where complications arise.
February 8, 2010
By John O’Callaghan
People who drink two or more sweetened soft drinks a week have a much higher risk of pancreatic cancer, an unusual but deadly cancer, researchers reported on Monday.
People who drank mostly fruit juice instead of sodas did not have the same risk, the study of 60,000 people in Singapore found.
Sugar may be to blame but people who drink sweetened sodas regularly often have other poor health habits, said Mark Pereira of the University of Minnesota, who led the study.
“The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth,” Pereira said in a statement.
Insulin, which helps the body metabolize sugar, is made in the pancreas.
Writing in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Pereira and colleagues said they followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years.
Over that time, 140 of the volunteers developed pancreatic cancer. Those who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87 percent higher risk of being among those who got pancreatic cancer.
Pereira said he believed the findings would apply elsewhere.
“Singapore is a wealthy country with excellent healthcare. Favorite pastimes are eating and shopping, so the findings should apply to other western countries,” he said.
But Susan Mayne of the Yale Cancer Center at Yale University in Connecticut was cautious.
“Although this study found a risk, the finding was based on a relatively small number of cases and it remains unclear whether it is a causal association or not,” said Mayne, who serves on the board of the journal, which is published by the American Association for Cancer Research.
“Soft drink consumption in Singapore was associated with several other adverse health behaviors such as smoking and red meat intake, which we can’t accurately control for.”
Other studies have linked pancreatic cancer to red meat, especially burned or charred meat.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with 230,000 cases globally. In the United States, 37,680 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in a year and 34,290 die of it.
The American Cancer Society says the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is about 5 percent.
Some researchers believe high sugar intake may fuel some forms of cancer, although the evidence has been contradictory. Tumor cells use more glucose than other cells.
One 12-ounce (355 ml) can of non-diet soda contains about 130 calories, almost all of them from sugar.
December 11, 2009
Eating pistachios every day might reduce your risk for lung cancer and other malignancies, according to a new study.
Pistachios are a good source of a type of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol.
“It is known that vitamin E provides a degree of protection against certain forms of cancer. Higher intakes of gamma-tocopherol … may reduce the risk of lung cancer,” Ladia M. Hernandez, a senior research dietitian at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and a doctoral candidate at Texas Women’s University, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.
The study included 18 people who ate 68 grams (about 2 ounces or 117 kernels) of pistachios a day for four weeks and 18 people in a control group who did not add pistachios to their normal diet.
As the study progressed, those in the pistachio group showed significantly higher blood levels of gamma-tocopherol.
The findings were to be presented Dec. 8 in Houston at a cancer prevention conference sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research.
“Pistachios are one of those ‘good-for-you’ nuts, and two ounces per day could be incorporated into dietary strategies designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer without significant changes in body mass index,” Hernandez said.
“Other food sources that are a rich source of gamma-tocopherol include peanuts, pecans, walnuts, soybean and corn oils,” she added.
December 8, 2009
By Simeon Bennett
Drinking coffee may lower the risk of developing the deadliest form of prostate cancer, according to a Harvard Medical School study.
In research involving 50,000 men over 20 years, scientists led by Kathryn Wilson at Harvard’s Channing Laboratory found that the 5 percent of men who drank 6 or more cups a day had a 60 percent lower risk of developing the advanced form of the disease than those who didn’t consume any. The risk was about 20 percent lower for the men who drank 1 to 3 cups a day, and 25 percent lower for those consuming 4 or 5 cups.
The study is the first to associate coffee with prostate cancer, contradicting previous research that’s found no link. The difference may be because Wilson and colleagues looked for the first time at the link between coffee and different stages of the disease, instead of grouping them all together. More research is needed to confirm the findings, she said.
“People shouldn’t start changing their coffee consumption based on one study,” Wilson said in a phone interview on Dec. 5. “It could be chance, and we really need to see whether it pans out in other studies.”
Prostate cancer struck almost 200,000 men in the U.S. this year and killed more than 27,000, making it the second-deadliest malignancy among American men after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. About 54 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee, according to the New York-based National Coffee Association.
The researchers aren’t sure which of the many components of coffee is responsible for the effect, though it probably isn’t caffeine because the same association was seen for decaffeinated coffee, Wilson said. The link wasn’t seen in patients with an earlier stage of prostate cancer, she said.
Coffee lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes by increasing the body’s ability to use insulin to convert blood sugar to energy, previous research has shown.
Higher insulin levels have also been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, suggesting the hormone may be the link between coffee and the disease, Wilson said.
December 4, 2009
By Amanda Gardner
Add colorectal cancer to the list of malignancies caused by smoking, with a new study strengthening the link between the two.
And other studies are providing more bad news for people who haven’t managed to quit: Two papers published in the December issue of Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a themed issue on tobacco, strengthen the case for the dangers of secondhand smoke for people exposed to fumes as children and as adults.
Inhaling those secondhand fumes may raise a woman’s odds for breast cancer or a child’s lifetime risk for lung malignancies, the studies found.
All of the findings, while grim, could be useful in the war against smoking, experts say.
“With the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration], we’re hoping this will be a significant tool to controlling tobacco, although it could get bogged down in so many different ways,” said Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior editor of the journal in which these papers appeared. “The FDA is going to have to make a lot of tough decisions about how to regulate tobacco, and the more science they have will help them.”
Is this latest round of revelations going to change current screening recommendations? Probably not, at least not yet, Shields added.
One study found that long-term smokers have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, a finding that factored into the recent decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to assert that there is “sufficient” evidence to link the two, up from its previous “limited” evidence.
“It took a long time to figure this out because the relationship [between smoking and colorectal cancer] is not as strong [as for some other cancers],” said Dr. Michael Thun, senior author of the study and vice president emeritus of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society. “The question was, is the association we’re seeing really caused by smoking?”
The researchers managed to adjust for other colorectal cancer risk factors, such as not getting screened, obesity, physical activity and eating a lot of red or processed meats. The issue is tricky because people who smoke are already more likely to engage in these types of behavior.
“When they took all of those other things out, smoking was still a small, elevated risk,” said Dr. Michael John Hall, director of the gastrointestinal risk assessment program at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
“We already know that smoking is bad. That doesn’t change. A positive thing that comes out of this is that if you can stop smoking earlier, you eliminate your risk later on, but the more you smoke, the risk is higher.”
This large prospective study, which followed almost 200,000 people over 13 years, found that current smokers had a 27 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer and former smokers a 23 percent increased risk compared with people who had never smoked.
People who had smoked for at least half a century had the highest risk — 38 percent higher than never smokers — of developing colorectal cancer
The good news is that people who tossed their cigarettes before the age of 40 or who had not smoked for 31 or more years had no increased risk.
Two other studies focused on the risk of secondhand smoke, or passive smoking. In one, children exposed to secondhand smoke had a higher risk of developing lung cancer as adults, researchers from institutions including the U.S. National Cancer Institute found. In another, California researchers found that adult non-smoking women who had spent long periods of time in smoking environments upped their odds of developing postmenopausal breast cancer.
The breast cancer findings were seen mostly in postmenopausal women, with a 17 percent higher risk for those who had had low exposure, a 19 percent increased risk for those with medium exposure and a 26 percent increased risk for those who had high long-term exposure over their lifetime.
Adult exposure, such as spending time in smoking lounges where others were smoking, carried the most risk, with childhood exposure appearing negligible.
November 30, 2009
by Liz Szabo
Women across the USA have been shocked and angered by new advice to get fewer mammograms. Yet experts have been debating the risks of mammograms and other cancer screenings for more than a decade.
There’s growing evidence that cancer screenings aren’t always helpful — and can sometimes be harmful, say Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin of the Veterans Affairs Outcomes Group in White River Junction, Vt. A number of medical groups also have scaled back their cancer screening guidelines:
•The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of government-appointed experts, two weeks ago advised most women ages 40 to 49 not to get “routine” mammograms because of concerns that the tests cause too many false alarms and even unnecessary treatment. While the panel advised that women 50 to 74 should get mammograms every other year, it said younger women should make up their own minds. In 2007, the American College of Physicians made similar recommendations for women in their 40s.
Q&A: What you need to know about new mammogram recommendations
POLL: Most women say they’ll still get mammograms
CANCER FORUM: Share your mammogram experiences
COVERAGE: Insurance companies say test will still be covered
•A few days after the task force’s announcement, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists revised its guidelines for cervical cancer screening.
The group recommended that women wait until age 21 for their first Pap smear and get follow-up exams every two to three years, depending on their age and medical history.
•Last year, the task force said men over age 75 shouldn’t be screened for prostate cancer, noting that men this age are more likely to die of something else before a prostate tumor could harm them. In March, two long-running and highly anticipated studies found that prostate cancer screening saves few, if any, lives but may hurt countless men by leading them to undergo therapies that can cause impotence, incontinence and even death.
Experts say they’ve revised their recommendations over the years as they’ve learned more about cancer — and the unintended side effects of treatment.
For instance, doctors treat cervical precancers much less aggressively today than they did 20 or 30 years ago, partly because they now know that many of these lesions go away by themselves, without treatment, says Alan Waxman of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who helped develop the new guidelines. Though doctors shouldn’t ignore cervical lesions, it’s often safe to monitor them rather than remove them surgically.
In fact, treating the lesions can scar the cervix and impair a woman’s future fertility. Studies show that women who have cervical lesions removed are more likely than others to give birth prematurely, Waxman says.
Waxman says there’s overwhelming evidence, however, that Pap smears — when targeted to the right age groups — have a positive effect. Thanks to Pap smears, cervical cancer rates have plunged by more than 50% in the past 30 years. Screening women by age 21 gives doctors plenty of time to detect and treat cervical cancers, which typically don’t develop until a woman is in her 40s.
Doctors are concerned about mammograms for different reasons. That’s because mammograms and other screenings sometimes find cancers that are relatively harmless, with no potential to spread around the body and threaten a woman’s life, Schwartz and Woloshin say.
According to the American Cancer Society’s Otis Brawley, population-based studies suggest that 10% to 33% of early breast cancers may not actually need to be treated. Because doctors can’t tell which early breast tumors will eventually turn deadly, they typically treat all of them, he says. Early tumors — those confined to the breast — are usually treated with surgery and may also require radiation and years of drug therapy, as well.
In spite of those risks, Brawley strongly believes mammograms are still worthwhile.
About 12,000 lives could be saved in the next decade if every woman in her 40s got regular mammograms, either annually or every other year, Brawley says. Providing regular mammograms to all women in their 50s and 60s, including the 30% who never get them, would save an additional 20,000 lives over the next decade.
November 23, 2009
By Mike Adams
The cancer industry has blatantly abandoned science these past two weeks by insisting women under 50 should receive annual mammograms even though the industry’s own scientific task force concluded that such screenings result in too many false positives. Essentially, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force took a good, hard look at the science and concluded that mammograms harm far more women than they help (for women under 50, anyway). But when they announced the new recommendations that women under 50 should avoid mammograms — and women over 50 should only get them every other year — the cancer industry cried foul.
Radiologists, oncologists, Big Pharma pill-pushers and cancer industry non-profits all banded together to declare, “We are abandoning the science! We want more mammograms for more women, science be damned!”
Of course, they all still claim to be “scientific,” but what they really do is selectively cherry-pick which bits and pieces of the scientific evidence they choose to adhere to. And when it comes to these new mammogram recommendations, they’ve decided to simply abandon the science and keep pushing more radiation imaging tests for women (mammography).
The cancer industry is a complete failure
What you are witnessing here, folks, is the desperate last gasps of a failed industry. Their technologies do not save lives, their drugs do not cure cancer, and their “science” doesn’t add up. The cancer industry is a fraud, and now its fraudulent nature is finally becoming apparent to everyone. It even has the mainstream media (USA Today) describing the failures of mammography in articles like the one you’ll see here.
Here’s something else you need to know: The cancer industry hasn’t merely abandoned science in terms of mammography; it has also abandoned all science with the pushing of chemotherapy. Did you know there has never been a randomized, placebo-controlled study proving that chemotherapy saves the lives of breast cancer patients?
That evidence doesn’t exist. The whole “treatment” scam is based entirely on fiction. Chemotherapy only works at all against three rare types of cancer, and breast cancer isn’t one of them.
In defending the new mammography guidelines, Dr. Timothy Wilt, a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said that the task force recommendations “were based on the most rigorous peer review of up-to-date, accurate information about the evidence about the harms and benefits of treatment.”
He repeated that women under 50 should never receive mammograms, and women 50 or over should only receive a mammogram every two years.
The American Cancer Society, quite predictably, has a real problem with that recommendation. Its entire success (and power) depends on more people getting cancer, and one of the best ways to make sure that happens is to keep pushing for more mammograms. In opposing the new mammography recommendations, the ACS has now abandoned science, too.
Chemotherapy: The chemical holocaust
When cancer doctors tell you that “chemotherapy will save your life,” they are lying to you. And they lie thousands of times a day, deceptively recruiting women into modern medicine’s version of a chemical holocaust.
November 20, 2009
By Greg Caton
Many people who read the materials in our “suppression page” seem dumbfounded that so many effective cancer therapies could have been uncovered — only to be suppressed by the very establishment created to find and implement effective therapies.
That widespread suppression does exist and has been going on in the West – as least as it relates to cancer – for well over 100 years, this is a given. All you have to do is read a handful of the books discussed in the suppression page to realize that suppression is the standard operating procedure of the medical industrial complex.
This page doesn’t ask what … It answers why.
‘The Impossible Mandate Principles’
New Corollaries of Parkinson’s Law
Most students of business management are familiar with at least the first of Parkinson’s major laws — that “work expands so as to fill the time allotted for its completion.” First published in 1955 and expanded in the widely popular book, Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress (1958), Professor C(yril) Northcote Parkinson, a noted British novelist and historian, came up with the principles to explain certain quirks of human behavior and how they relate to the management of organizations.
The left-leaning British press mocked Parkinson’s work as “satirical” – an orientation still accepted in many corners – even many dictionaries. But satirical or no, Parkinson’s Law and the corollary principles it spawned are hardly whimsical – but rather remind one of the famous Shakespearian adage, “Many a Truth has been spoken in jest.” Indeed, given the harsh political realities that study of Parkinson’s principles would reveal, it is no wonder its author chose to give his delivery a “tongue-in-cheek” spin.
The First Corollary:
“In only the rarest of circumstances can an organization succeed if the fulfillment of a singular assigned mission means an end to the purpose which created it. If not provided with a subsequent mission, the organization will actually impede the goal(s) for which it owes its very existence.”
The stated purpose of the American Cancer Society, and hundreds of lesser lights in what would become known as the ‘War on Cancer’ – (remember that one? That’s right. Richard Nixon) – is to find a cure for cancer!
Year after year, these organizations collect hundreds of millions of dollars promising that effective treatment for cancer is right around the corner. “We can complete the Mission. We can stamp out cancer in your lifetime. But we need your help!”
“It is disastrously naive to think
that a highly funded establishment set up to find a cancer cure could ever effectively work to that aim. All organizational structures assume macrobiological characteristics taken from the organisms who comprise them. In the current context, they are human – and like all animals, each is organically programmed to live, survive, grow, expand, procreate. And so it is with the organizations humans create. To ask the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute to find a cancer cure is to say, ‘Now go. Be successful. And once you have achieved your aim, promptly commit suicide.’ For once a real cancer cure or cures are announced, the need for these organizations, which collect hundreds of billions of dollars in the aggregate annually for treatment and research – from governments, agencies, foundations, corporations, insurance companies, and private individuals – all of them, without exception, will have lost their reason for existence. That is why a cancer cure will never come from their quarter: the very nature of their mandate is a violation of Natural Law. It is a grand act of political expediency and managerial stupidity that has made what should have been an easy-to-solve medical puzzle and turned it into the single greatest act of man-made carnage in history — a fraud of unspeakable magnitude that has spanned more than a century, and has needlessly caused the premature deaths of tens of millions of people.”
Year after year more and more money is spent on a virtual potpourri of money-seeking cancer foundations, agencies and societies. And year after year cancer incidence grows higher and higher. What little progress is reported by the pollyannas of the cancer industry can primarily be attributable to early detection and prevention – activities which cannot begin to address, quantitatively, the large sums invested each year in cancer research and treatment.
November 20, 2009
Cancer Prevention Coalition
By Samuel S. Epstein M. D.
The American Cancer Society is fixated on damage control— diagnosis and treatment— and basic molecular biology, with indifference or even hostility to cancer prevention. This myopic mindset is compounded by interlocking conflicts of interest with the cancer drug, mammography, and other industries. The “nonprofit” status of the Society is in sharp conflict with its high overhead and expenses, excessive reserves of assets and contributions to political parties. All attempts to reform the Society over the past two decades have failed; a national economic boycott of the Society is long overdue.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is accumulating great wealth in its role as a “charity.” According to James Bennett, professor of economics at George Mason University and recognized authority on charitable organizations, in 1988 the ACS held a fund balance of over $400 million with about $69 million of holdings in land, buildings, and equipment (1). Of that money, the ACS spent only $90 million— 26 percent of its budget— on medical research and programs. The rest covered “operating expenses,” including about 60 percent for generous salaries, pensions, executive benefits, and overhead. By 1989, the cash reserves of the ACS were worth more than $700 million (2). In 1991, Americans, believing they were contributing to fighting cancer, gave nearly $350 million to the ACS, 6 percent more than the previous year. Most of this money comes from public donations averaging $3,500, and high-profile fund-raising campaigns such
as the springtime daffodil sale and the May relay races. However, over the last two decades, an increasing proportion of the ACS budget comes from large corporations, including the pharmaceutical, cancer drug, telecommunications, and entertainment industries.
In 1992, the American Cancer Society Foundation was created to allow the ACS to actively solicit contributions of more than $100,000. However, a close look at the heavy-hitters on the Foundation’s board will give an idea of which interests are at play and where the Foundation expects its big contributions to come from. The Foundation’s board of trustees included corporate executives from the pharmaceutical, investment, banking, and media industries. Among them:
David R. Bethune, president of Lederle Laboratories, a multinational pharmaceutical company and a division of American Cyanamid Company. Bethune is also vice president of American Cyanamid, which makes chemical fertilizers and herbicides while transforming itself into a full-fledged pharmaceutical company. In 1988, American Cyanamid introduced Novatrone, an anti-cancer drug. And in 1992, it announced that it would buy a majority of shares of Immunex, a cancer drug maker.
Multimillionaire Irwin Beck, whose father, William Henry Beck, founded the nation’s largest family-owned retail chain, Beck Stores, which analysts estimate brought in revenues of $1.7 billion in 1993.
Gordon Binder, CEO of Amgen, the world’s foremost biotechnology company, with over $1 billion in product sales in 1992. Amgen’s success rests almost exclusively on one product, Neupogen, which is administered to chemotherapy patients to stimulate their production of white blood cells. As the cancer epidemic grows, sales for Neupogen continue to skyrocket.
Diane Disney Miller, daughter of the conservative multi-millionaire Walt Disney, who died of lung cancer in 1966, and wife of Ron Miller, former president of the Walt Disney Company from 1980 to 1984.
George Dessert, famous in media circles for his former role as censor on the subject of “family values” during the 1970s and 1980s as CEO of CBS, and now chairman of the ACS board.
Alan Gevertzen, chairman of the board of Boeing, the world’s number one commercial aircraft maker with net sales of $30 billion in 1992.
Sumner M. Redstone, chairman of the board, Viacom Inc. and Viacom International Inc., a broadcasting, telecommunications, entertainment, and cable television corporation.
The results of this board’s efforts have been very successful. A million here, a million there— much of it coming from the very industries instrumental in shaping ACS policy, or profiting from it. In 1992, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the ACS was “more interested in accumulating wealth than in saving lives.” Fund-raising appeals
routinely stated that the ACS needed more funds to support its cancer programs, all the while holding more than $750 million in cash and real estate assets (3). A 1992 article in the Wall Street Journal, by Thomas DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College and veteran investigator of nonprofit organizations, revealed that the Texas affiliate of the ACS owned more than $11 million worth of assets in land and real estate, as well as more than 56 vehicles, including
11 Ford Crown Victorias for senior executives and 45 other cars assigned to staff members. Arizona’s ACS chapter spent less than 10 percent of its funds on direct community cancer services. In California, the figure was 11 percent, and under 9 percent in Missouri (4):
Thus for every $1 spent on direct service, approximately $6.40 is spent on compensation and overhead. In all ten states, salaries and fringe benefits are by far the largest single budget items, a surprising fact in light of the characterization of the appeals, which stress an urgent and critical need for donations to provide cancer services.
Nationally, only 16 percent or less of all money raised is spent on direct services to cancer victims, like driving cancer patients from the hospital after chemotherapy and providing pain medication.
Most of the funds raised by the ACS go to pay overhead, salaries, fringe benefits, and travel expenses of its national executives in Atlanta. They also go to pay chief executive officers, who earn six-figure salaries in several states, and the hundreds of other employees who work out of some 3,000 regional offices nationwide. The typical ACS affiliate, which helps raise the money for the national office, spends more than 52 percent of its budget on salaries, pensions, fringe benefits, and overhead for its own employees. Salaries and overhead for most ACS affiliates also exceeded 50 percent, although most direct community services are handled by unpaid volunteers. DiLorenzo summed up his findings by emphasizing the hoarding of funds by the ACS (4):
If current needs are not being met because of insufficient funds, as fund-raising appeals suggest, why is so much cash being hoarded? Most contributors believe their donations are being used to fight cancer, not to accumulate financial reserves. More progress in the war against cancer would be made if they would divest some of their real estate holdings and use the proceeds— as well as a portion of their cash reserves— to provide more cancer services.
Aside from high salaries and overhead, most of what is left of the ACS budget goes to basic research and research into profitable patented cancer drugs. The current budget of the ACS is $380 million and its cash reserves approach $1 billion. Yet its aggressive fund-raising campaign continues to plead poverty and lament the lack of available money for cancer research, while ignoring efforts to prevent cancer by phasing out avoidable exposures to environmental and occupational carcinogens. Meanwhile, the ACS is silent about its intricate
relationships with the wealthy cancer drug, chemical, and other industries. A March 30, 1998, Associated Press Release shed unexpected light on questionable ACS expenditures on lobbying (5). National vice president for federal and state governmental relations Linda Hay Crawford admitted that the ACS was spending “less than $1 million a year on direct lobbying.” She also admitted that over the last year, the society used ten of its own employees to lobby. “For legal
and other help, it hired the lobbying firm of Hogan & Hartson, whose roster includes former House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R– IL).” The ACS lobbying also included $30,000 donations to Democratic and Republican governors’ associations. “We wanted to look like players and be players,” explained Crawford. This practice, however, has been sharply challenged. The Associated Press release quotes the national Charities Information Bureau as stating that it” does not know of any other charity that makes contributions to political parties.”
Tax experts have warned that these contributions may be illegal, as charities are not allowed to make political donations. Marcus Owens, director of the IRS Exempt Organization Division, also warned that “The bottom line is campaign contributions will jeopardize a charity’s exempt status.”