Summary of Action

In 1996, the Federal Trade Commission entered into a consent agreement with Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), that prohibited it from, among other things, using patient testimonials that misrepresent the typical experience of its patients.

While this Order expired in 2016, the for-profit cancer center — which continually spends the most of any U.S. cancer center on marketing each year, having spent more than $110 million on average over the last three years — is nonetheless bound by the law, which makes clear that touting atypical results in patient testimonials without clearly and conspicuously disclosing what the generally expected results for a patient in a similar situation would be violates FTC law.

Subsequent to the FTC Order’s expiration, TINA.org conducted a review of patient testimonials used by CTCA in its marketing materials. TINA.org collected more than 130 examples in circulation in 2018 in which the company deceptively promoted anecdotal, atypical results. 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.

As a result of these findings, TINA.org sent a complaint letter to the FTC on October 22, 2018, urging it to reopen its investigation of CTCA and take appropriate enforcement action.

In conjunction with this investigation, TINA.org conducted a review of patient testimonials used by the 50 cancer treatment centers in the U.S. that spent the most money on advertising in 2017 to promote their centers. TINA.org’s results revealed that, of the cancer centers still in business in 2018, 43 out of 48 – or 90% – used deceptive patient testimonials in their marketing materials. For more information, click here.

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