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FTC shuts down company touting cancer cure

From Hannah Buchdahl

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Trade Commission, with help from authorities in Mexico and Canada, has pulled the plug on a company that allegedly lured hundreds of cancer patients into bogus therapy.

The FTC said the company, CSCT, based in British Columbia, falsely claimed that it could treat cancer with so-called "Zoetron Therapy," involving an electromagnetic device that purportedly uses a pulsed magnetic field to heat and kill cancer cells. The cost: $15,000 plus the cost of transportation to the company's clinic in Tijuana, Mexico.

"This is sham therapy. It has absolutely no effect on cancer cells. And tragically, some consumers lost a lot more than $15,000. They lost time," said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"We have not heard of any individuals who were successful. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Zoetron will do anything to affect the course of cancer," Beales said.

The company targeted primarily U.S. citizens via the Internet, telemarketing and advertisements in alternative medicine magazines. The FTC estimates CSCT scammed about 850 patients over the past few years. Among them: the mother of Shelia Lewandowski.

Lewandowski said her mother died shortly after getting the therapy, which cost the family about $20,000 and had no effect on her mother's advanced brain tumor.

She said the family read about Zoetron in an alternative medicine magazine. Lewandowski said she had her doubts but her mother was seduced by the company's claims of success in treating various forms of cancer.

"They are saying that they have great results with this. So, when you're offered no hope [otherwise], you have a tendency to grasp for that. I personally didn't like it, but I wasn't my mom either, and I wasn't the one with the brain tumor," Lewandowski said.

A federal district court in Chicago has issued an injunction prohibiting the company from making false claims, freezing its assets, and shutting down its Web site.

Mexican officials in Tijuana shut down the clinic that was providing the treatment.

"This action sends a clear message to those who would take advantage of patients with serious illnesses. Just because you cross the border, you cannot evade the law," warned Mark McClellan, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

The actions against CSCT were part of a joint effort known as MUCH, the Mexico-U.S.-Canada Health Fraud Work Group. It was established in 1994 to strengthen all three countries' ability to prevent cross-border health fraud.

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