A Status Report
When President Nixon signed the American Cancer Act in December 1971 and famously announced The War on Cancer, I suspect that everyone thought that more progress would have been made by 2014. Possibly some people even dreamed that cancer would have been cured or, better, prevented. We sadly know better.
Yes,indeed, there has been progress and a few really major breakthroughs. A few cancers that used to be almost universally fatal, Hodgkins Disease and testicular cancer and CLL come to mind, are often now cured and always treatable. There has been progress in breast cancer, too. In 1979, there was exactly one treatment for metastatic breast cancer, Adriamycin, and when it stopped working, there was nothing else to offer. Women with early breast cancer were treated routinely with two years of CMF chemotherapy until, I think, 1978, when it was reduced to one year. But, still, all too many women die from breast cancer, and many other cancers continue to kill at an alarming rate.
This is a sobering but excellent article from Business Insider about the state of progress. I give you the beginning and a link to read more:
We're Losing The War On Cancer
JOHN HORGAN, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
I recently got into an argument, again, about cancer.
The occasion was a talk by one of my colleagues at Stevens Institute, philosopher Gregory
Morgan, on the fascinating history of research into cancer-causing viruses. In the Q&A, someone
commented on how far science has come in understanding cancer's causes.
With my usual kneejerk negativity, I lamented that all our knowledge about oncogenes,
oncoviruses and other cancer catalysts has not translated into significant reductions in
Others in the audience objected that they knew people whose lives had been saved by better tests
and treatments. They expressed incredulity when I said that cancer tests and treatments might
be hurting more people than they helped.
So I thought I'd assemble some basic facts on this issue, especially since that gives me a chance
to draw attention to excellent new books–by journalists Dan Fagin and George Johnson, two old
friends–that underscore cancer’s persistent intractability.
I'll get to Fagin and Johnson soon, but first some background information. Cancer journalism
usually hails alleged advances, but in 2009 Gina Kolata of The New York Times provided a blunt
reality check, "Advances Elusive in the Drive to Cure Cancer," that five years later remains all too