The Cancer Industry

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Book Review

The Cancer Industry : Unraveling the Politics

Author: Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. Publisher: Paragon House, New York Reviewed by: Saul Green, Ph.D.

Ralph Moss would like you to believe that research institutions, hospitals, medical associations, government agencies, foundations and large corporations-which he calls "the cancer industry"-suppress innovation in order to maximize profits. Many of the book's allegations are repeated from a 1980 edition titled The Cancer Syndrome. Both versions have been carefully contrived to promote distrust and fear of scientifically-based cancer treatment.

The first part of The Cancer Industry, entitled "Proven Methods (That Often Don't Work)"- is intended to undermine confidence in scientific methods. The second part, which occupies half the book, promotes the gamut of "unproven therapies." The final two parts expound Mr. Moss's opinion that "the direction of cancer management appears to be shaped by those forces financially interested in the outcome of the problem." He even claims that big business is so powerful and so determined to make money that it has blocked scientists and government agencies from paying more attention to cancer prevention. Readers unacquainted with the facts may find Moss's arguments disquieting, if not persuasive. My reaction was quite different. Having personal knowledge of many of the events he described, I found reading his versions very painful. Although the book is loaded with carefully selected facts, it is also loaded with distortions and misrepresentations. For example

  • Insinuating that an executive-level position made him privy to the inner workings at Sloan-Kettering Institute, Moss represents that he was assistant director of public affairs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center during the mid-1970s. However, [/04ConsumerEducation/Reviews/moss.pdf documents I have from Sloan-Kettering officials indicate that his only title was "science writer."]
  • Moss suggests that a Sloan-Kettering researcher, Kanematsu Sugiura, found that laetrile was effective against cancer in mice and that his work was never repeated or refuted. The book fails to mention that at least six major cancer research institutions did repeat Sugiura's experiments and had negative results.
  • Moss endorses the work of the late Dr. Virginia Livingston-Wheeler, who claimed that cancer is caused by a bacterium she named Progenitor cryptocides. He neglected to mention that scientists don't believe her hypothesis because there is no proof that the organism exists. Neither Dr. Wheeler nor anyone else has been able to produce a cancer by injecting her alleged organisms into experimental animals. Independent researchers have found numerous cases where cancer tissues did not contain the organism. In addition, cultures of "Progenitor cryptocides" from Dr. Wheeler's own lab, which were grown in other labs, turned out to be common forms of Staphylococci that inhabit the skin.

Moss appears to feel no need to question any assertions or possible motives of those whose work he extols. He is apparently content to regurgitate the tales they tell about themselves, their experiences with patients, and their scientific ability. The book is dangerous because it may induce desperate cancer patients to abandon sound, scientifically based medical care for a worthless "alternative."


Dr. Green (1925-2007) was a biochemist who did cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for 23 years. He consulted on scientific methodology and had a special interest in unproven methods.. This review was originally published in the May/June 1991 issue of Nutrition Forum. Moss's Ph.D. degree is in classics.