It was reported that the controversial Totnes Cancer Conference is to go ahead tomorrow even after Trading Standards Officers had contacted the Town Council asking for the event to be cancelled and even after the organiser had received a letter this morning from Trading Standards informing him that
Even the title of the conference and the title of your clinic, in our view, are likely to breach the legislation because of their promotion of cancer treatment.
In order to sidestep this, the Alliance for Natural Health reported that
a ‘private conversation’ for invited guests will take place at a private location, namely the Eden Rise, just outside of Totnes
Complaints had been made by several concerned individuals, including the local MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston, who had been contacted by constituents.
As a result of this, Totnes Town Council withdrew permission for the Civic Hall to be used as a venue but organiser Dr Stephen Hopwood ploughed on regardless.
As recently as yesterday evening, according to his interview on Totnes FM, Hopwood was hopeful that since Tullio Simoncini is no longer to speak at the conference
…Trading Standards will drop any issue they have with the speakers and we can persuade the civic to proceed.
Simoncini is indeed controversial. He believes baking soda is a useful cancer treatment and in his native Italy, he has been struck off and convicted of fraud and involuntary manslaughter.
Hopwood explained on Totnes FM that he believes Simoncini has ‘overstepped the mark’ with his theory that cancer is a fungus.
However, Simoncini is not the only planned speaker to hold controversial, misguided, incorrect views that are likely to cause harm to vulnerable members of the public.
Let us take a closer look at the others…
Dr Stephen Hopwood
You’d never guess it by looking at the list of unusual unproven or disproven therapies on offer at his Arcturus Clinic, but event organiser Stephen Hopwood is actually a qualified doctor. Nor would you guess this from listening to his Totnes FM interview, where he discussed some of his unconventional views on cancer and the body.
For example, Hopwood explained that an acidic environment in the body will lead to candidiasis which would predispose the body to cancer. This is not the view of a reputable doctor but in fact sounds remarkably like the theories put forward by the outrageous cancer quack, ‘Dr’ Robert O Young.
Dr Hopwood’s unconventional views are not limited to the field of medicine. He also seems to believe in a wide range of wacky conspiracy theories, examples of which are discussed at his Truth Juice meetings and explored in documentaries shown on the TV channels he works on, www.bbc5.tv and www.paradigmshift.tv. Among these is the Burzynski Movie (as discussed elsewhere on this blog.)
Hopwood also stood as an independent candidate for Totnes during the 2010 General Election, on the single issue of Truth.
Barbara also has some very strange ideas, some of them rather alarming.
BBC South West’s Inside Out reported that she had claimed to have successfully treated a friend’s thyroid cancer with a combination of an external compress of urine and castor oil and dietary advice.
She also advised her students to recommend massive doses of an iodine supplement only available from pet stores. As dietician Catherine Collins explained, this could cause you to develop hyperthyroidism and in some people could boost the production of thyroxin to the extent that they would need to be admitted to hospital.
Matthew Manning is a psychic healer who believes he can treat a wide range of conditions, including cancer. His website contains recommendations from celebrities such as Maureen Lipman and Sir David Frost, as well as favourable press cuttings and patient testimonials. I find these two particularly worrying:
We visited the Royal Marsden yesterday to get the results of recent scans and blood tests. Although I have had no chemotherapy or other treatment, the marker had been 766 in August and has now fallen to 17; also the scan shows a continuing stable situation.
Several months ago you sent distant healing to my cousin in Poland. He had an inoperable tumour in his spine and the best we hoped for was a peaceful ending. The last scan showed the tumour had disappeared and all the doctors were very surprised. They could not explain it. There are no words to express our gratitude and appreciation for what has happened. He has returned to work and has regained his strength and mobility.
These statements clearly imply that Manning is able to use his healing abilities to successfully treat cancer. If people are misled by this view and persuaded to forego conventional treatment, this could have tragic consequences.
Alan plans to discuss cancer from a Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint. According to the Totnes Cancer Health Centre website, Papier
has worked with world renown Chinese master Dr Shen and holds his lineage of herbal formula including one for treating the common in-balance found in women with breast cancer.
According to ‘Dr’ Shen’s website, the three causes that underly most breast cancers are stagnation, damp accumulation and toxicity and what is missing from our modern-day understanding are several traditional Chinese concepts, such as the concept of ‘flow.’ Although this makes little sense in physiological terms, TCM practitioners like Shen believe that cancer can occur when poor ‘flow’ causes prolonged exposure to toxicity. Shen recommends professional help by Chinese herbologists experienced in treating cancer, who will combine herbs into formulae which will differ from person to person.
I need hardly say if there were any firm evidence of efficacy of any of these herbal preparations, then they would have been explored and developed by conventional medicine.
Papier will also discuss how
acupuncture and chinese herbs can help nourish the blood, clear toxins, boost the immune system and balance hormones all essential to sustainable health care cultivation and optimal health.
This view makes no sense in terms of human biology. It is also not supported by evidence.
John, a cancer survivor, will be talking about the principles of Gerson therapy.
According to Cancer Research UK, this is an alternative therapy diet which is usually used in place of conventional treatment for cancer. Therapists mistakenly believe that people with cancer have too much sodium in their body compared to the amount of potassium and that this may be corrected by diet and coffee (and perhaps also castor oil) enemas.
There is no medical research to support any claims that Gerson therapy can prevent, treat or cure cancer. It can also have serious side effects which may include infections, dehydration, fits, mineral imbalances, heart and lung problems and even death.
Dr Robert Verkerk
Dr Verkerk is not a qualified medical practitioner. It is therefore misleading to use this title in advertising unless this point is made clear.
Verkerk represents the Alliance for Natural Health and plans to discuss ‘environmental causes of disease and their possible effects on causing cancer’. The ANH lobbies against regulation of dietary supplements and herbal medicines and run campaigns in favour of supplements and traditional medicinal cultures (eg TCM).
Dr Hedda Kraker von Schwarzenfeld
Dr Kraker von Schwarzenfeld may be a GMC Registered Medical Practitioner, but her views on medicine are far from conventional. She plans to speak to the conference about the effects of mistletoe therapy and its use in cultivating immunity in people with cancer.
Professor Edzard Ernst discussed mistletoe as a treatment for cancer in a recent BMJ article. He concluded that
mistletoe has been tested extensively as a treatment for cancer, but the most reliable randomised controlled trials fail to show benefit, and some reports show considerable potential for harm.
Dr Sarah Myhill
Myhill is also, albeit controversially, still registered with the GMC. Following a so-called ‘witch-hunt‘, she appeared before the GMC and was banned from prescribing drugs and ordered to take down part of her website. This warned patients against oral contraceptives and the MMR triple vaccine, as well as mammogram tests and biopsies for cancer.
Dr Claudius Van Wyk
I don’t think Claudius is a doctor. Even his own website does not make this claim, but instead describes him as a Principle officer of Transformation Strategies Ltd. (UK & SA) and Master Practitioner of Neuro-linguistic programming. In case you haven’t encountered it before, NLP is a pseudoscience relating to a supposed connection between neurological processes, language and behaviour. There is no reliable evidence to support such a theory.
Claudius plans to discuss “the emotional influences which may be contributing to the causes of the current epidemic in cancer”. I only hope he does not suggest that NLP can be a useful treatment. He wouldn’t be the first to do so.
Kevin Wright is the founder of Bobby’s Health Fund and plans to speak about his son’s natural therapies designed to cultivate health.
Bobby’s Health Fund was closed down after what Wright described as ‘negative publicity’ relating to a probe by the Gambling Commission.
Wright is no stranger to negative publicity. He has appeared in the local press on numerous occasions, usually in relation to violent crimes. In one interview, he even admitted that he has a criminal record stretching back to childhood. According to the article in question, his crimes include violence, battery, fraud and drink-driving.
Kevin’s son Bobby’s ‘natural therapies’ include iodine solution, zeolite, colloidal silver and baking soda. These are not licensed medicinal products but are still marketed to treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions – including cancer.
Robin will be representing Yes To Life, a charitable initiative which supports an ‘integrative approach to cancer care’. This means integrating conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medicine.
Marianne is a live blood analyst. As I have discussed many times before, live blood analysis is based on a completely ludicrous theory put forward by ‘Dr’ Robert O Young.
Young teaches that all illness is caused by acidity and that your own blood cells transform into yeast and mould. Although these ideas are laughable, they also have the potential to do harm. Young also believes that cancer and diabetes (Types 1 and 2) can be ‘reversed’ by following his ‘alkaline diet’ and has been known to advise clients against conventional treatment, with tragic consequences.
The Totnes Cancer Health Centre: A Quack Pascal’s Wager Andy Lewis, The Quackometer, 08/03/12
Town Council shuts Hopwood’s cancer conference down Totnes FM, 20/03/12
Totnes cancer conference investigated by Trading Standards BBC News Devon, 20/03/12
Cancer in Totnes Zeno, Zeno’s blog, 20/03/12
Totnes cancer conference will go on vows Hopwood Totnes FM, 21/03/12
Totnes cancer conference venue withdrawn BBC News Devon, 21/03/12
Trials of the Totnes Cancer Health Care Conference Alliance for Natural Health Europe, 23/03/12
The conference went ahead at Eden Rise, but without Tullio Simoncini. Although at the time, it was claimed to be a private event, by invitation only (and is now claimed to have been cancelled), it was streamed live on Hopwood’s paradigmshift.tv. For more on this, see “Quack Totnes Cancer Conference Ends in Farce” on the Quackometer blog.