Crowdfunding for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What are Cancer Patients Seeking?

Snyder J., Zenone M., Caulfield T.
Academic Journal
PLoS One


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly being integrated into conventional medical care for cancer, used to counter the side effects of conventional cancer treatment, and offered as an alternative to conventional cancer care. Our aim is to gain a broader understanding of trends in CAM interventions for cancer and crowdfunding campaigns for these interventions.


GoFundMe campaigns fundraising for CAM were retrieved through a database of crowdfunding campaign data. Search terms were drawn from two National Institutes of Health lists of CAM cancer interventions and a previous study. Campaigns were excluded that did not match these or related search terms or were initiated outside of June 4th, 2018 to June 4th, 2019.


1,396 campaigns were identified from the US (n = 1,037, 73.9%), Canada (n = 165, 11.8%), and the UK (n = 107, 7.7%). Most common cancer types were breast (n = 344, 24.6%), colorectal (n = 131, 9.4%), and brain (n = 98, 7.0%). CAM interventions sought included supplements (n = 422, 30.2%), better nutrition (n = 293, 21.0%), high dose vitamin C (n = 276, 19.8%), naturopathy (n = 226, 16.2%), and cannabis products (n = 211, 15.1%). Mexico (n = 198, 41.9%), and the US (n = 169, 35.7%) were the most common treatment destinations.


These findings confirm active and ongoing interest in using crowdfunding platforms to finance CAM cancer interventions. They confirm previous findings that CAM users with cancer tend to have late stage cancers, cancers with high mortality rates, and specific diseases such as breast cancer. These findings can inform targeted responses where facilities engage in misleading marketing practices and the efficacy of interventions is unproven.