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Published on October 22nd, 2018

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Cancer Treatment Center of America Database

TINA.org conducted a review of patient testimonials used by Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in its marketing materials. Specifically, TINA.org’s investigation focused on testimonials featuring patients with cancer types that have a less than 50 percent five-year survival rate,* who are being used in direct-to-consumer marketing materials to advance the narrative, either explicitly or implicitly, that treatment at CTCA will provide patients with a therapeutic advantage, allowing them to beat the odds and live beyond five years.

During the course of its investigation, TINA.org collected more than 130 examples of CTCA marketing materials in circulation in 2018 in which the company deceptively promoted anecdotal, atypical patient results without clearly and conspicuously disclosing what the generally expected results for a patient in a similar situation would be, in violation of FTC law. Moreover, within this sampling of deceptive testimonials some also promote novel treatments, such as immunotherapy or targeted therapies based on genomic testing, without clearly and conspicuously disclosing their limitations, risks and relative rarity.

TINA.org audited these findings in October 2018. Any URLs that were inaccessible at that time are shown below in gray.

Note: TINA.org has shortened the length of some videos in the database in order to pinpoint the deceptive claims at issue.

+ Pancreatic

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Cassandra F. Pancreatic, Stage 2 Website Profile 11.5%
Cassandra F. Pancreatic Video A (Youtube) 8.5%
Cassandra F. Pancreatic Video B (Youtube) 8.5%
Chris P. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Website Profile 2.7%
Chris P. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video A (website) 2.7%
Chris P. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 2.7%
Chris P. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 2.7%
Don D. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Website Profile 2.7%
Don D. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 2.7%
J. Peter M. Pancreatic, Stage 3 Website Profile 11.5%
J. Peter M. Pancreatic, Stage 3 Cancer Fighters Website 11.5%
Jeana C. Pancreatic Video A (website) 8.5%
Jim M. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Website Profile 2.7%
Jim M. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Patient Treatment-Results 2017-18 2.7%
Joyce Pancreatic Video A (Youtube) 8.5%
Peggy K. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Website Profile 2.7%
Peggy K. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Magazine 2.7%
Peggy K. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video A (website) 2.7%
Peggy K. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video B (website) 2.7%
Peggy K. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video C (website) 2.7%
Peggy K. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video D (Youtube) 2.7%
Roger S. Pancreatic, Stage 4 Video A (website) 2.7%
Roxanne W. Pancreatic, Stage 3 Website Profile 11.5%
Roxanne W. Pancreatic, Stage 3 Cancer Fighters Website 11.5%
Roxanne W. Pancreatic, Stage 3 Facebook 11.5%
+ Lung

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Cheryl F. Lung Instagram 18.6%
Gary S. Lung, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 4.7%
George R. Lung, Stage 3 Website Profile 29.7%
George R. Lung, Stage 3 Video A (website) 29.7%
George R. Lung, Stage 3 Video A (Youtube) 29.7%
George R. Lung, Stage 3 Cancer Fighters Website 29.7%
Gerhard M. Lung, Stage 4 Video A (website) 4.7%
Gerhard M. Lung, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 4.7%
Jackie T. Lung, Stage 4 Website Profile 4.7%
Jane E. Lung, Stage 4 Website Profile 4.7%
Jane E. Lung, Stage 4 Magazine 4.7%
Jane E. Lung Instagram 18.6%
Jane E. Lung Instagram 18.6%
Jane E. Lung, Stage 4 Video A (website) 4.7%
Jane E. Lung, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 4.7%
Jane E. Lung, Stage 4 Video B  (Youtube) 4.7%
Jane E. Lung, Stage 4 Video C (Youtube) 4.7%
Jane E. Lung Cancer Fighters Website 18.6%
Janette B. Lung Website Profile 18.6%
Kathleen H. Lung, Stage 3 Video A (Website Profile) 29.7%
Kathleen H. Lung, Stage 3 Video B (website) 29.7%
Kathleen H. Lung, Stage 3 Video B (Youtube) 29.7%
Larry C. Lung, Stage 4 Website Profile 4.7%
Larry C. Lung, Stage 4 Facebook 4.7%
Larry C. Lung, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Facebook 4.7%
Larry C. Lung, Stage 4 Instagram 4.7%
Mark F. Lung Cancer Fighters Website 18.6%
Randall R. Lung, Stage 4 Website Profile 4.7%
Russel Lung Instagram 18.6%
Stacy F. Lung, Stage 4 Video A (Website Profile) 4.7%
Susan M. Lung Facebook 18.6%
Todd H. Lung Video A (website) 18.6%
Todd H. Lung Video A (Youtube) 18.6%
Ursula H. Lung Magazine 18.6%
Ursula H. Lung Video A (Youtube) 18.6%
Ursula H. Lung Video B (Youtube) 18.6%
+ Esophageal

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Andrew S. Esophageal, Stage 4 Website Profile 4.8%
Andrew S. Esophageal, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 4.8%
Charles M. Esophageal, Stage 2 Website Profile 23.6%
Chuck G. Esophageal, Stage 3 Website Profile 23.6%
Job L. Esophageal, Stage 3 Website Profile 23.6%
Kevin B. Esophageal, Stage 3 Website Profile 23.6%
Steven O. Esophageal, Stage 3 Website Profile 23.6%
Steven O. Esophageal, Stage 3 Magazine 23.6%
+ Breast

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER Survival Rate
Felicia M. Breast, Stage 4 Website Profile 27.0%
Heather H. Breast, Stage 4 TV Ad (version 1) 27.0%
Heather H. Breast, Stage 4 TV Ad (version 2) 27.0%
Jill G. Breast, Stage 4 Website Profile 27.0%
Karla B. Breast, Stage 4 Website Profile 27.0%
Patricia E. Breast, Stage 4 Website Profile 27.0%
Rita H. Breast, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 27.0%
RuPearl S. Breast, Stage 4 Website Profile 27.0%
+ Ovarian

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Catherine W. Ovarian Facebook 47.4%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Website Profile 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Instagram 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Video A (Facebook) 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Video A (Facebook 2) 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Video B (Youtube) 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Video C (NYTimes sponsored content article) 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Video C (NYTimes sponsored content Youtube) 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Patient Treatment Results 2017-18 29.2%
Christine B. Ovarian, Stage 4 Twitter 29.2%
Louanda H. Ovarian Video A (Facebook) 47.4%
Mary B. Ovarian Cancer Fighters Website 47.4%
Ninette R. Ovarian, Stage 4 Website Profile 29.2%
Sheryl N. Ovarian, Stage 4 Website Profile 29.2%
Tara L. Ovarian, Stage 4 Website Profile 29.2%
+ Colorectal

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Gwen C. Colorectal, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 13.8%
John G. Colorectal, Stage 4 Website Profile 13.8%
Martin M. Colorectal, Stage 4 Facebook 13.8%
Martin M. Colorectal, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 13.8%
Mike F. Colorectal, Stage 4 Website Profile 13.8%
Mike F. Colorectal, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube) 13.8%
Phil B. Colorectal, Stage 4 Website Profile 13.8%
Rosie P. Colorectal, Stage 4 Website Profile 13.8%
Rosie P. Colorectal, Stage 4 Video A (website) 13.8%
Rosie P. Colorectal, Stage 4 Video B (Youtube) 13.8%
Tye P. Colorectal, Stage 4 Facebook 13.8%
Tye P. Colorectal, Stage 4 Instagram 13.8%
+ Prostate

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Dick R. Prostate, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 30.0%
Fred A. Prostate, Stage 4 Website Profile 30.0%
Fred A. Prostate, Stage 4 TV Ad (30s) 30.0%
Fred A. Prostate, Stage 4 TV Ad (60s) 30.0%
Jeff A. Prostate, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 30.0%
Ken P. Prostate, Stage 4 Website Profile 30.0%
Tom C. Prostate, Stage 4 Website Profile 30.0%
+ Bladder

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Troy M. Bladder, Stage 4 Video A  (Website Profile) 4.8%
Troy M. Bladder, Stage 4 Video A (website) 4.8%
Troy M. Bladder, Stage 4 Video A (Youtube)** 4.8%
Troy M. Bladder, Stage 4 Video A (Vimeo)** 4.8%
Troy M. Bladder, Stage 4 Magazine 4.8%

**Note: There is a discrepancy between the stage identified in the video description (stage 3) and the stage identified in the video itself (stage 4).

+ Melanoma

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Pamela M. Melanoma, Stage 4 Website Profile 22.5%
Pamela M. Melanoma, Stage 4 Video A (Facebook) 22.5%
Rick N. Melanoma, Stage 4 Website Profile 22.5%
+ Kidney

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Bonnie B. Kidney, Stage 4 Website Profile 11.6%
Bonnie B. Kidney, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 11.6%
Derl “Steve” L. Kidney, Stage 4 Website Profile 11.6%
Doug B. Kidney, Stage 4 Cancer Fighters Website 11.6%
+ Liver

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Dwight R. Liver Cancer Fighters Website 17.7%
Jackie M. Liver, Stage 2 Magazine 10.6%
Joseph T. Liver Cancer Fighters Website 17.7%
+ Appendix

Name Cancer Type Testimonial Cancer.net Survival Rate**
Rhonda B. Appendix, Stage 4 Video A (NYTimes sponsored content article) 32%
Rhonda B. Appendix, Stage 4 Video A (NYTimes sponsored content Youtube) 32%
+ Stomach

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Dean A. Stomach Website Profile 31.0%
+ Oral

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Diana H. Oral, Stage 4 Website Profile 39.1%
Hector N. Oral, Stage 4 Website Profile 39.1%
+ Uterine

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Lynette K. Uterine (Endometrial), Stage 4 Website Profile 16.3%
+ Head and Neck

Name Cancer Type Testimonial SEER 5-Year Survival Rate*
Stephen H. Head and Neck, Stage 4 Website Profile 39.1%

* TINA.org used the five-year survival statistics published on the NIH National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program website (https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/) in determining which testimonials portray atypical results. In cases where such statistics were not available, TINA.org looked to other sources, including Cancer.org and Cancer.net.

The NIH SEER Cancer Survival Statistics provide overall statistics for different cancer types (e.g., brain, lung, breast, ovarian), as well as individual survival statistics for each stage of a given cancer type. These statistics describe cancer stages using words (“Localized,” “Regional,” “Distant”) as opposed to numbers (stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4). In aligning the staging system used in the testimonials to the NIH SEER stages, TINA.org classified stage 1 as “Localized,” stages 2 and 3 as “Regional,” and stage 4 as “Distant,” which is consistent with the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Staging definitions. See NIH National Cancer Institute Cancer Staging, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/staging.

If a testimonial provided the stage, TINA.org used the statistic for that particular stage. If a testimonial did not provide a stage, TINA.org used the overall statistic for that cancer type. In those cases in which a particular patient is featured more than once in a database – i.e., the cancer center featured the patient in multiple marketing materials – TINA.org catalogued the specific cancer stage for that patient based on related posts even if one or more of the patient’s testimonials did not provide staging information. However, in those instances, the patient’s testimonials present an atypical result whether general or specific survival statistics are used. That is to say, regardless of which survival statistics are used, the five-year life expectancy is under 50 percent.

CTCA provides life-expectancy statistics for 11 distant cancers (breast, colon, esophageal, kidney, non-small cell lung, small cell lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, rectal and stomach cancer). TINA.org did not use CTCA’s reported “Length of Life Statistics” given the severe limitations of the data. Nevertheless, use of CTCA statistics would not change the results of TINA.org’s findings as the CTCA survival rates for all 11 cancer types is well below 50 percent five years out.

The CTCA testimonials in TINA.org’s database feature patients who are not likely to survive beyond five years from diagnosis based on their cancer types but nevertheless state expressly or imply that they have lived beyond five years or will live past the five-year mark, which is, by definition, an atypical result.

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