CANCERactive is Britain's number 1 holistic cancer charity (source: CANCERactive), founded by Chris Woollams, Britain's number 1 cancer researcher (source: CANCERactive). It spends only around a third of its income on its stated charitable purpose, unusually low for a charity, and its largest single source of income is "products of choice", which appears to mean sales of the products CANCERactive recommends on its pages, via the web shop of Health Issues Ltd., prominently linked on the pages as "products of choice". Health Issues Ltd. also trades under the banners The Natural Selections and Rainbow Foods, eerily similar to the title of Woollams' book The Rainbow Diet; it is asserted to be independent from CANCERactive but turns out not to be in any meaningful sense: its shares are held by Woollams and his cousin Lindsey Fealey, who until recently was listed as a trustee of CANCERactive.
Woollams writes a blog on canceractive.com under the pseudonym Galileo Galilei.
The sale of these products is important because of the Cancer Act 1939, which makes it an offence to take any part in advertising designed to "offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof". Chris Woollams is against the Cancer Act not least because "this 1939 law makes no differentiation between a drug, a synthetic supplement or a natural compound". Some would argue that this is entirely intentional, and that a double standard requiring much more robust evidence for drugs than for supplements marketed with similar-sounding claims would be absurd. But that would never happen.
CANCERactive came to particular skeptical notice when Woollams threatened to sue Professor David Colquhoun FRS, professor of pharmacology at UCL and author of the DC's Improbable Science blog. This was based on the same broken element of English libel law which the British Chiropractic Association used against Simon Singh: a statement made by Colquhoun was capable of being interpreted as suggesting that Woollams profits from the charity, although Colquhoun did not say so in as many words, there is no suggestion that this meaning was intended, and DC went to some lengths to show sympathy with Woollams; the meaning in context was clearly not to suggest the interpretation asserted by CANCERactive. Nonetheless, English libel law allows text to be used out of context and specific interpretations to be asserted as defamatory even if there is no evidence that it was intended or that anybody reading the statement in context would arrive at that interpretation.
CANCERactive claim to be "evidence based" and follow the very latest research. As they say, "At CANCERactive we also do not aim to 'sell' any treatment. We provide information to help you more easily find things — be it a location for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, or HIFU; or a hospital or private cancer clinic". So this appears to show that in their view hyperbaric oxygen therapy and HIFU are equivalent in value. In fact, hyperbaric oxygen therapy for cancer is pure quackery whereas HIFU is an evidence-based treatment.
Among the products and treatments they endorse:
- Aloe Vera "can fight cancer"
- Astragalus "The immune booster that helps fight cancer two ways"
- Bee Propolis (manuka honey) "significant and varied anti-cancer benefits"
- Beneficial Bacteria "help prevent cancer"
- Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) "Can reduce the damaging side effects from radiotherapy and chemotherapy as it seems to offer protection to healthy cells and enhances the attacking and removal of cancer cells"
- Chlorella "In the presence of light, chlorophyll produces oxygen – the very substance that cancer cells hate."
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, ubiquinone) "a non-toxic natural substance that reduces the damage done to the heart by chemotherapy agent Adviamycin and may increase anti-tumour activity. CoQ1O protects the liver from the toxic effects of many chemotherapy drugs"
- Curcumin (extracted from turmeric) "No cancer has been found that is not affected by curcumin"
- Dr Budwig and her anti-cancer protocol
- Echinacea "successful […] in brain tumours"
- Essiac "The Medicine Man's Cure for Cancer"
- Fish oils "Cancer Fighting Vitamins And Minerals"
- Garlic "has strong anti-cancer benefits"
- Green Tea "can prevent cancer […] can help fight cancer […] can reduce the spread of cancer […] benefits against leukaemia"
- Indol-3-carbinol "will be used to treat all manner of illnesses from arthritis to MS to cancer, and even replace Tamoxifen with a far better alternative"
- Intestinal bacteria and preventing colon cancer
- Melatonin "antioxidant and anti-cancer hormone"
- MGN-3 "Most of the research papers done on MGN-3 arabinoxylan compound involve testing of NK cell activity. In its lifetime, a single NK cell can kill as many as 27 cancer cells"
- MGN-3 BioBran testimonials for stomach, prostate and breast cancer
- Noni juice contains "high levels" of bromelain "known to weaken the walls of cancer cells"
- Resveratrol "Protects against cancer; Kills cancer cells; Prevents metastasis; Aids Chemotherapy results, whilst protecting healthy cells"
- The Rainbow Diet "and how it can help you beat cancer"
- Vitamin B-17 (laetrile)
- Vitamin C "Eat to beat cancer"
- Vitamin D "Enormous potential to beat cancer"
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
The common thread is that the claims of proponents of any treatment are always taken at face value, and only evidence-based treatments are subjected to any significant scrutiny or caveat.
Joined at the hip
Closer investigation did find some rather singular facts about CANCERactive and the Health Issues web shop, and about the Colquhoun dispute in particular:
- On 7 July 2012 Chris Woollams accused Professor David Colquhoun of defamation for suggesting that Woollams is trading off the back of the charity, CANCERactive.
Woollams sought to establish that the charity, the company whose web shop is prominently linked from the charity website, and he, were three distinct entities and not formally linked (the charity run by a board of trustees, and himself not associated with the company).
- 7 July is the very day that Companies House shows the company, Health Issues Ltd (therainbowfoods.com) moving from The Elms, Radclive Road, Gawcott.
- The Elms, Radclive Road, Gawcott was until very recently listed as the contact address for Chris Wollams.
- The Elms, Radclive Road, Gawcott was until very recently listed as the contact address for CANCERactive.
- A company director search shows Woollams as living at The Elms, Radclive Road, Gawcott (though this may be an accommodation address as Woollams is apparently expatriate).
- The domains canceractive.com, chriswoollams4health.com and therainbowfoods.com are all registered to Christopher Woollams.
- All three domains' websites are hosted on the same Rackspace (UK) IP address.
- Woollams was a director of Health Issues Ltd until December 2010 according to Companies House
- The board of trustees of CANCERactive has two members: Larry Brooks and Stephanie Woollams. Stephanie is Chris Woollams' daughter.
- The same apparent carelessness that led to both entities being registered at the same address, led to the website for Health Issues Ltd. being listed as www.canceractive.com in the WHOIS registry.
- Woollams resigned as a director of Health Issues Ltd. in 2010. A check on 16 July 2012 showed that the limited company has a shareholding of £2, with two shares, one each assigned to CW4H International and Lindsey Ann Fealey.
- Lindsey Fealey is Chris Woollams' cousin and said to be a co-founder of CANCERactive, and CW4H International is unlikely to be nothing but ChrisWoollams4Health, Woollams' offshore registered company.
- Lindsey Fealey was still listed as a trustee on canceractive.com as of 9 July 2012.
- The company secretary of Health Issues Ltd is presently Mrs. Jane Elizabeth Reynolds, or should we say Jane Reynolds (CANCERactive), as they themselves do. And the company is run by Jeremy Baker, who did the graphic design for canceractive.com and who produce CANCERactive’s ICON magazine.
- Woollams is prominently identified as the person who selects products for the "Natural Selections Shop", The Rainbow Foods, a.k.a. Health Issues Ltd.
Even while accepting Woollams' assertion that he makes no financial profit from this relationship, and accepting at face value his apparent belief in the value of the work he does and the products he sells, there is no reasonable doubt that the web shop and the charity are basically inseparable, and that Woollams is the lead actor in both.
- Bad advice from CANCERactive, Josephine Jones