Vitamin C and cancer : medicine or politics?


Vitamin C and cancer : medicine or politics?

Evelleen Richards

Macmillan, 1991

大学図書館所蔵 件 / 4



Includes bibliographical references (p. 241-259) and index



The history of the development of vitamin C as a treatment for cancer, its championing by Linus Pauling, America's most famous living scientist, and its rebuttal by the American medical establishment makes an interesting story and one which affects the lives of millions. It provides an example and model of the way in which the scientific assessment of therapies can never be neutral and objective, but is inevitably an implicitly political process. "Vitamin C and Cancer" draws on the prolific and far-flung correspondence of Linus Pauling, manuscripts, newspaper reports and journal articles to paint a vivid picture of the politics of therapeutic evaluation. By comparing the medical assessments of vitamin C with those of two other conventional cancer treatments, the highly toxic 5-fluorouacil and interferon, the wonder drug of the 80s, Evellen Richards goes on to show that the clinical trial, no matter how tightly it is organized and evaluated, can neither guarantee objectivity nor definitively resolve disputes over contentious treatments. Richards' account calls into question the heavy economic and social investment in ever more tightly organized and rigorously controlled clinical trials. Rather than pursue the unattainable goal of neutral and objective assessment, Richards contends that it would be better to learn to live with the reality of the political and social assessment of treatments. "Vitamin C and Cancer" concludes by indicating some of the ways in which this might be done. This book offers an original and controversial approach to the analysis of the production and evaluation of contemporary medical knowledge.


  • Part 1 Interested parties and the background to the controversy: charting the terrain - introducing vitamin C, the battle field, the treatment of cancer, national differences in medical organization and practice, cancer clinical trials
  • the vitamin C "believers" - Linus Pauling, Ewan Cameron, the Linus Pauling Institute, the Robinson affair, megavitamin therapy and orthomolecular medicine, the holistic health movement and the "freedom fighters" for freedom of choice in cancer treatments, the health food industry
  • the vitamin C "non-believers" - Dr Charles Moertel, the Cancer Establishment, the National Cancer Institute, the food and drug administration, the American Cancer Society, orthodox nutritionists, "quackbusters", and the fight against "nutritional quackery", "The New England Journal of Medicine" and the profession of medicine. Part 2 Reconstructing the controversy: the Cameron-Pauling hypothesis and the vale of Leven trials - the Cameron-Pauling hypothesis: vitamin C and PHI, the pilot vale of Leven trials, the PNAS affair, Cameron's pilot trial findings and his presentation strategy, refining the vale of Leven trials, publicity, a time of optimism, the conclusion of the Sloan-Kettering trial
  • the first Mayo clinic trial - Pauling's "head-on collision with the scientific method"? - the first Mayo clinic trial, the second Mayo clinic trial is announced, Pauling, Moertel, and the Laetrile controversy, of mice and men, Cameron's continuing research
  • the second Mayo clinic trial - "a conspiracy to suppress the truth"? - the 2nd Mayo clinic trial, the Pauling-Cameron criticisms, ploys and tactics, the publication game, closing the controversy. Part 3 The politics of therapeutic evaluation: the social shaping of the vitamin C and cancer controversy - the social negotiation of the efficacy of vitamin C as a cancer treatment, more negotiations - the social character of the publication process, fact-making and the media, with a law suit on the side, the importance of rhetoric, the rhetorical deployment and malleability of ethical claims, the centrality of method discourse - its rhetorical and political functions
  • comparative analysis of the controversy - vitamin C, 5-fluorouracil, and interferon - 5-fluorouracil - "The breakthrough that never was" as conventional cancer treatment, the adjudicating community - the profession of medicine, interferon-from "pseudoscience" to professionally accredited cancer treatment. Part 4 Making and creating choices: options and pressures for change, implications of this study for the evaluation and social implementation of therapies.

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