Crowdfunding for Cancer Treatments Could Exploit Vulnerable Patients

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Crowdfunded projects sometimes include controversial cancer treatments conducted at controversial clinics.
Crowdfunded projects sometimes include controversial cancer treatments conducted at controversial clinics.

(HealthDay News) -- There are fears that huge sums are being raised on crowdfunding sites for alternative cancer treatments that are not backed by evidence, according to a feature article published online Sept. 12 in The BMJ.

Melanie Newman, a freelance journalist in the United Kingdom, reports on appeals on U.K. crowdfunding sites for cancer treatment with an alternative health element. Figures collected by the Good Thinking Society, a charity that promotes scientific thinking, show that since 2012, these appeals have raised $10 million. Figures from crowdfunding site JustGiving show that more than 2,300 U.K. cancer-related appeals were set up on its site in 2016, a seven-fold increase over 2015.

Though crowdfunding has allowed some poorer patients to access expensive, experimental treatments that do have some evidence of benefit, there is fear that some companies and individuals may prey on the vulnerable. A large amount of money has been crowdfunded for controversial treatments at controversial clinics. Good Thinking wants crowdfunding sites to vet cancer appeals and reject ones that refer to drugs that have been discredited, extreme dietary regimens, intravenous vitamin C, and alkaline therapy. GoFundMe is taking steps in the United States to ensure users of its sites will be better informed and will be rolling out these changes globally in the coming months.

"If these platforms want to continue to benefit from the goodwill of their users -- and, indeed, to profit from the fees they charge each of their fundraisers -- they have a responsibility to ensure that they do not facilitate the exploitation of vulnerable people," Michael Marshall, project director for the Good Thinking Society, said in the article.

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