TESTIMONY TO THE HOUSE COMMITTEE
ON GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERSIGHT,
DAN BURTON (R-IN), CHAIRMAN
By Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
[NOTE: Be sure to also read A Major Victory
at NCI, a letter that Ralph Moss sent to his POMES Colleagues on February
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,
Congress was deceived when the war on cancer was launched in 1971.
Experts swore under oath that they would deliver a cure for cancer in
time for the Bicentennial (1976). That is ancient history. But Congress
continues to be fooled by a new generation of "experts"
who testify that the war on cancer is being won, and that all we need
to do is trust them to conquer this terrible disease.
Recently, Dr. Richard Klausner, M.D., director of the National Cancer
Institute (NCI), appeared before this Congress and claimed that we have
turned the corner in the fight against cancer. He promised that advances
in genetics were ushering in a golden age of research. However, I believe
that the rosy picture he paints is misleading.
Back in 1962, 278,000 Americans died of cancer. Last year, cancer deaths
were over 560,000, double the figure of 35 years ago. Certainly, part
of this increase is due to the growth and aging of the population. But
even when one adjusts for these factors, the overall U.S. mortality rate
from cancer increased over 10 percent from 1950 to 1991. And the incidence
rate during that time increased nearly 50 percent.
There has been a leveling off in recent years. But we have still witnessed
a tremendous worsening of the cancer situation throughout this century.
In particular, the rates of lung cancer have risen astronomically, more
than 500 percent among women. There has been a tripling in the incidence
of melanoma, and nearly a doubling of cases of prostate cancer and multiple
BREAST CANCER STATISTICS
Many of us are understandably alarmed at the prevalence of breast cancer
in America today. When Pres. Nixon launched the war on cancer in 1971,
a woman's lifetime risk for contracting breast cancer was one in fourteen.
Today, it is one in eight. Between 1973 and 1992, the incidence of breast
cancer rapidly increased by 34 percent, and among black women by 47 percent.
And the chances of being cured have not improved very much. Since 1960,
nearly one million American women have died of breast cancer. Dr. Klausner
has made much of the recent leveling off or even downturns in some of
the cancer statistics. These are encouraging.
However, a slight downturn in mortality does not make up for millions
of personal tragedies.
WHEN THE DIAGNOSIS IS CANCER
Let us consider what happens to a person who is diagnosed with cancer.
First of all, there are the so-called "proven" methods, surgery,
radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Sometimes these are brutal methods,
that involve the loss or damage of body parts and functions. Surgery is
an ancient approach, known to the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is
a sad commentary that this is still the mainstay of therapy. New ideas
are urgently needed in the treatment of even so-called "curable"
But what about those patients whose tumors are inoperable or widespread
at the time they are discovered? Similarly, what about the patients whose
tumors have returned after being "successfully" treated with
Such cancers are, by and large, incurable with today's conventional methods.
The best that conventional medicine has to offer is palliation. And despite
the war on cancer about half of all cancer patients will eventually find
themselves in this deplorable position.
What are they supposed to do?
THE PITFALLS OF CLINICAL TRIALS
If you read the statements of the NCI, they urgently appeal to cancer
patients to join their clinical trials. This message is picked up and
amplified by all the beneficiaries of the war on cancer. You can even
see it on billboards in airports. A "clinical trial" is made
to sound very attractive to cancer patients. However, as the President's
Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine stated (in 1983),
"Patients who are asked to participate in tests of new anticancer
drugs" should "not be misled about the likelihood (or remoteness)
of any therapeutic benefit they might derive."
In fact, there is little chance of therapeutic benefit to patients
in such trials. Studies in both the United States and Japan have shown
that only about one percent of patients in Phase I clinical trials have
a complete response to the treatment, and only about 5 percent have any
response at all.
You may think that five percent is not bad odds when you are in a desperate
situation. But here you have to understand some of the peculiar terminology
of the field. For a "response" is not a "cure." Far
from it. The FDA defines a response as the shrinkage of 50 percent or
more of the measurable tumors for a period of one month or more.
It is a change in size of a mass. This might be important, if the tumor
is painfully pressing on a nerve or another vital structure. But usually
such shrinkages are absolutely meaningless to the patient. It is essentially
a numbers game played among oncologists-who can shrink tumors the
most. In the majority of cases, these temporary shrinkages do not correlate
with an increase in median overall survival, which is the most meaningful
measurement of patient benefit in such trials.
Sometimes, in fact, a high response rate actually correlates with a lower
period of survival. It may do more harm than good.
I want to call your attention to the fact that these trials can be very
dangerous for patients. The drugs approved by the FDA for treating cancer
are all toxic. Some of them have astonishing toxicity, especially when
given in combination. In one clinical trial of drugs on patients with
the leukemia-like myelodysplastic syndrome, 42 percent of participants
were killed by the treatment itself.
In another study, of a three-drug regimen called "ICE," 13
patient ( 8 percent of the total) died as a consequence of the treatment
itself, so-called "treatment deaths." But the scientists in
charge had the nerve to conclude that this regimen was "well tolerated,
with acceptable...side effects and predictable organ toxicity."
Acceptable to whom? Not the patients who died after contracting raging
bacterial infections, capillary leak syndrome, bleeding inside the brain,
and irreversible kidney failure-all caused by these drugs. And certainly
not their families.
This is the "scientific" approach of the NCI. Not surprisingly,
there is tremendous resistance among patients and doctors to such trials.
Only three to five percent of cancer patients go into them. Many oncologists
want nothing to do with them. In fact, just 10 percent of all oncologists
enroll 80 percent of the patients in clinical trials. In New York, oncologists
have given their patients small doses of standard chemotherapy to make
them ineligible for useless clinical trials.
LOOKING FOR ALTERNATIVES
Drugs that don't work-clinical trials that measure meaningless shrinkages-doctors
who think that horrible side effects are perfectly acceptable...no
wonder cancer patients today are desperately looking for alternatives.
They are exploring the realm of unapproved, complementary, non-toxic
treatments in record numbers.
You can be sure that one of the reasons the NCI and FDA so hate these
alternative treatments is that they siphon away "adventurous"
patients who might otherwise go into clinical trials.
Historically, all of the agencies involved in the war on cancer have
lied about the nature of these alternatives. They have painted a distorted
picture of them as quackery. They have pre-judged them, refusing to carry
out the most basic tests that could evaluate their efficacy. Tests were
only performed under duress (often because the Congress insisted) and these
tests were at best ill-conceived and at worst marked by outright fraud.
Yet the history of medicine tells us that many treatments and techniques
once considered "alternative" or "fraudulent" later
became an established part of the mainstream. Radiation and chemotherapy
themselves started out on the fringe. Acupuncture was derided as "quackupuncture"
for decades. But a recent Consensus Conference of the National Institutes
of Health endorsed its use for such conditions as pain and nausea related
The Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) was established by Congress
at the National Institutes of Health precisely because of the historic failure
of the NCI to fulfill its mission and examine all possible options in the
fight against cancer. But little progress has been made because of the intransigent
attitudes of the cancer establishment.
Are there frauds among the alternatives? Certainly. How can we separate
the wheat from the chaff? We need good research, with open-minded attitudes
and adequate funding, to carry out studies of these alternatives. The OAM
is ready to perform these studies. But the NCI stands in the way. Along
with its police partner, the FDA, it is the great roadblock to the examination
of promising new ways of treating cancer.
Dr. Klausner is betting on the genetic revolution to produce a cure cancer.
Even some geneticists warn that cancer breakthroughs, if they do come
from this field, may be decades away. I believe there is enormous potential
in the various alternative and complementary approaches to cancer.
In my book, Cancer Therapy (1992),
I discuss over 100 such methods. One could add another hundred or so of
promise. These include vitamin and mineral regimens, herbal formulas,
unusual drugs from land and sea, immunological techniques, electromagnetic
treatments, and utilization of the mind-body connection.
On a recent trip to Germany I was astonished
to see the scope and freedom with which many progressive oncologists treat
cancer. They use a combination of the conventional approaches with such
things as tumor vaccines; mistletoe therapy;
local, regional and whole-body hyperthermia; thymus and other organ extracts;
fever therapy; orthomolecular and antioxidant therapies; psychoneuroimmunology;
music and art therapy; sports and physical therapy; and many, many others.
Their government not only allows such approaches, but encourage and pay
for them as well.
It is astonishing that the average American oncologist knows little or
nothing about any of these approaches. The FDA has done everything in
its power to block their development over here. The NCI has not seriously
examined a single one of these. Our war on cancer has fallen woefully
behind developments in other parts of the world, not just Germany
but Japan, China, and many other countries as well.
The approach of the war on cancer has been relentlessly that of chemotherapy.
Reliable estimates put the sales of cancer therapeutics at over $12.3
billion this year. Most of that is controlled by American firms. And so
it has been a big business success story, with double-digit growth rates
every year for over a decade. But it has done little for the cancer patient.
The FDA has approved approximately 40 drugs for the treatment of cancer.
But it has never approved a non-toxic agent or one that was not patented
by a major pharmaceutical company. The approved drugs are all toxic and
many of them cause second cancers in those who are lucky enough to survive
the treatment. And the NCI, FDA, and comprehensive cancer centers are
tied by a thousand strings to the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical
industry. Recently, a top FDA official went to work for Elan Pharmaceuticals.
But this is nothing new. Two past directors of the FDA became drug company
officials, as did Dr. Klausner's predecessor at the NCI. It is a time-honored
tradition, the "revolving door."
Meanwhile, the FDA spends a good deal of its resources hunting down
and harassing those who use innovative methods in treating cancer.
They have carried out a vendetta against Dr. Stanislaw R. Burzynski,
MD, PhD, a Texas physician who has used non-toxic peptides in the treatment
of brain cancer and other kinds of malignancy. They have repeatedly raided
his clinic, seized his records, harassed his patients. In 1995, they instigated
charges that would have put him in federal prison for life. Luckily, the
jury saw otherwise and Dr. Burzynski is a free man. When I publicly objected
to this harassment I myself was slapped with a subpoena for all my information
regarding Dr. Burzynski. When I pointed out the illegality of this request,
and indicated my willingness to fight the FDA, the subpoena was just as
suddenly quashed by the U.S. Attorney.
FDA has also impeded the work of Dr. Georg Springer of the Finch Medical
School, who has developed a promising vaccine for breast cancer. It has
hindered the work of Arnold Eggers, M.D., of Downstate Medical School,
who has a promising treatment based on concepts first proposed by William
B. Coley a century ago. And it has used its resources to attack the distributors
of non-toxic medications. The most recent victim was a distributor of
the non-toxic drug hydrazine sulfate, who was raided by FDA enforcement
agents on January 16, 1998.
The approach of the NCI and FDA is overwhelmingly in support of toxic
chemotherapy. They have abrogated their duties as the defenders and protectors
of the cancer patients. They function today on behalf of the industry
they were supposed to challenge and oversee. The are the drug testing
and law enforcement arms of a vast $100 billion a year business, the cancer
The promotion of toxic treatments and the venomous hatred of alternatives
is not restricted to court battles. Both FDA and NCI are active in the
court of public opinion, trying to destroy confidence in any non-toxic
or less-toxic treatment.
Their main vehicle in this regard is the Cancer Information Service of
the NCI. Their reckless attacks on alternative and complementary treatments
are disseminated at taxpayer's expense via print, fax, and especially
Their statements are filled with prejudice, errors and innuendo. Each
one contains an "advertisement" for NCI's clinical trials. When
I was an advisor to the Office of Alternative Medicine, I tried to find
out exactly who wrote these erroneous statements and what sort of "peer
review" they possibly could have undergone before being released.
I never could find out. It is clear that no bona fide experts were involved
in their creation, and that the proponents of such methods were not consulted
or even interviewed before these statements were drawn up and released.
These harmful, hateful statements have become an integral part of the
"war on cancer" which, quite frankly, more often looks like
a "war on alternative practitioners" than a war on any disease.
Treatment approaches that threaten the hegemony of the drug industry are
prone to vicious attack.
The NCI's statements on alternative and complementary cancer treatments
should be immediately withdrawn. New statements that are factual and unbiased,
should be drawn up for release by the Cancer Information Service.
The statements that have already been prepared by Dr. Mary Ann Richardson
and her group at the University of Texas School of Public Health could
provide a good starting point for these new statements.
REFORM OF FDA
In addition, the FDA should be reformed so that it no longer exerts a
stranglehold on innovators in cancer treatment and diagnosis. That is
why I strongly support passage of the Access to Medical Treatment Act
and urge you all to cosponsor this important legislation.
The FDA does little to protect citizens from the ravages of chemotherapy,
which is overwhelmingly given without any proof of patient benefit. In
the past, FDA at least paid lip service to the idea that anticancer drugs
should extend life or improve quality of life. But in 1996, they caved
in and agreed that new drugs could be approved based on partial remissions
in clinical trials. Such partial remissions are nothing but the shrinkages
of tumors. As we have shown, such temporary and partial shrinkages do
not necessarily lead to improvements in survival or quality of life.
Finally, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I have an urgent
In August, 1997, the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) in conjunction
with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a meeting in Bethesda,
MD to consider how they could evaluate the practices of doctors who use
unconventional methods to treat cancer. The name of this meeting was "POMES,"
which stands for "Practice Outcomes Monitoring and Evaluation
Systems." Over 100 leaders of the cancer field attended, including
not just alternative researchers and practitioners, but the director of
the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Wisconsin, the president
of the American Health Foundation, two department chairs from Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, representatives from major food companies,
and many others.
There were great hopes for this meeting, since we were told that it was
funded by Dr. Klausner's office at the NCI. Perhaps this signaled a change
in attitude at NCI, the change we have all been waiting for. But not only
was Dr. Klausner unable to attend, but his key deputy, Robert Wittes,
M.D., Director of the Division of Cancer Treatment, Diagnosis and Centers,
also failed to put in an anticipated appearance. The FDA and NCI scientists
who did appear lacked decision-making power in this area.
After several days of heated discussion, the participants finally hammered
out statements that could lay the basis for future evaluations of alternative
cancer treatments. It felt like history in the making. These guidelines
called for the creation of an Oversight Board, a body of experienced people
who could guarantee a "level playing field" in the evaluation
of alternative practices. No longer would NCI have complete power to serve
as lawyer, judge and jury in every case.
Most of the participants left that meeting excited by the prospects
before us. Then, silence. Since August, we have not received a single
official communication regarding POMES. Has POMES died a natural death...or
did someone kill it?
I know for a fact that the problem does not lie with the Office of Alternative
Medicine, whose leaders remain enthusiastic about the prospect of fairly
evaluating such treatments. I can only conclude, therefore, that the roadblock
is the top leadership of the NCI and possibly the NIH as well.
You have to ask yourself why these high-placed medical leaders so fear
an impartial test of unconventional approaches to cancer? Why do they
hate the idea of an impartial Oversight Board, which could detect fraud
or malfeasance on either side of the cancer controversy?
Perhaps they are afraid of the competitive threat such non-toxic and
less-toxic methods might pose to the cancer industry? Do they fear the
ridicule of prejudiced colleagues? Or perhaps they fear the repercussions
in Congress, if it turns out that an effective treatment for cancer was
overlooked-or even suppressed-by NCI and FDA?
Mr. Chairman, I urgently appeal to you to help revive POMES.
I am sure you agree that patients and their caregivers need reliable
information about the safety and potential effectiveness of alternative
and complementary cancer treatments.
Many American citizens are impatient with the foot-dragging at NCI and
the obstructionism of the FDA. Yet we as individual citizens have no way
to force these agencies and individuals to act properly or fairly. It
is up to you, our elected representatives, to do that. There is no time
to waste. Since August, another 270,000 Americans have died of cancer.
Many of them were desperately seeking reliable scientific information
on alternatives at the time they died.
The Congress created the OAM to bring about the fair evaluation of alternative
methods. We appreciate the fact that you have increased OAM's funding
to $20 million this year. It is a heartening vote of confidence in the
future of this field. And, in some respects, under the leadership of Wayne
Jonas, M.D., it has done a brilliant job. But OAM by itself does not have
the political clout to force the testing of alternative cancer treatments.
That is the main reason that OAM has not carried out a single evaluation
of a controversial cancer treatment. It has not and it will not, because
at every turn, the NCI has been there, insisting on a major role. It now
turns out that the role NCI wanted was to block and obstruct such trials
from taking place.
BLOCK NCI'S APPROPRIATIONS!
Just one month ago, Dr. Klausner appeared before the Appropriations Committee
and requested $2.2 billion for his agency for fiscal year 1998. This is
an increase of $61 million over last year. I am here to ask you to do
everything in your power to block that appropriation until NCI change
its attitude towards alternative and complementary treatments. As a first
step they should actively implement the POMES process.
In his speech to Congress, Dr. Klausner stated that "there is no
one intervention or even one type of intervention that will successfully
conquer the many diseases we call cancer. Our approach must be open and
Fine words! But it happens to be the exact opposite of the course
that NCI is actually pursuing. It is only an aroused Congress that can
make Drs. Klausner and Wittes open the doors of NCI to alternative treatments.
They must not be allowed to serve as a branch of the pharmaceutical
industry, but must be convinced to test a wide variety of treatments,
as they are currently practiced around the world.
If these individuals will not comply, they should be replaced by open-minded
scientists who will.
Mr. Chairman, for the 1.2 million Americans and the 9 million people
worldwide who will develop cancer this year, such reforms cannot come
a moment too soon.
--Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D., 2/4/98
Article on 2/4 Hearings
Moss's Editorial on Hearings
A Major Victory at NCI
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