More from NYT/ Ms. Kolata on Why Our Nation Fails to Find Multiple Ways to Manage or Cure Cancer
Ms. Gina Kolata is back with another important but depressing New York Times article on the failure of our national policy for addressing cancer. Her series started with a late April article. I mentioned it here in a post that provided links to sources showing that more people die in the US every two days due to cancer than died on 9/11/01, and that a careful, extended study showed that the direct costs of cancer treatment are exceed by indirect costs of cancer at a ration of about 2.3 to 1 by the indirect costs.
The gist of her new article is to demonstrate that our nation fails to fund research on new ideas and instead strongly tends to fund new research in old areas. Doing so of course has its advantages in that little risk is taken, but the article also explains that taking risks and following new ideas is often how we make real progress. Indeed, just think of where we might be if Dr. Salk had been stuck thinking in conventional ways. Ironically, the later online version of the Sunday NYT includes a new article reporting on success in battling cancer in animals through some unusual techniques developed in Australia that take advantage of leaks in tumor blood vessels to deliver minicells that mark the area for treatment.
For a dramatic, detailed and easy to read example of why new thinking is a MUST for cancer, read Dr. Folkman’s War. http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Folkmans-War-Angiogenesis-Struggle/dp/0375502440 The book tells the story of how a stint doing pathology and seeing tiny tumors throughout bodies ultimately caused Dr. Judah Folkman to reach the profound insight that all solid tumors need blood vessels to grow, and that something in the body must turn on and off the ability to generate blood vessels. As the book details, Dr. Folkman and his ideas were rejected and indeed even ridiculed. But after many years , his unorthodox theories ere proven correct. Research continues today into how to delay or stop tumor growth using some of the principles he developed, and some promising results have been obtained.
In short, there is much to be done to create a strong national or global strategy for solving or managing the myriad types of cancer. Indeed, I’ve come to the view that all the walkathons and charities are in a way counterproductive. Why? Because they implicitly send the message that cancer has to be solved through relatively modest hard-earned donations instead of through a massive national and international funding of efforts to find cures for cancers.
Finding ways to cure or manage cancer should be a priority of our government for both objective and subjective reasons. On the objective side, the direct and indirect costs of cancer are huge as detailed by the study mentioned above, and our economy needs the short term and long term jobs that new science may create (which would blue collar jobs as well because fermenting yeast to grow medicines is much like brewing beer, except even cleaner). For subjective reasons to find answers for cancer, consider that every two days, over 4,000 people will die from cancer. Our government, however, has not spent hundreds of billions of dollars a year to avenge the thousands of the thousands of “homeland” cancer deaths that occur every day.
For data for cancer for 2009, see: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/STT_0.asp