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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Racing for the Cure: The Case for More Cancer Reseach Funding

Many occupational disease are malignancies. Over the decades we are encourage to "wal and Run" as society races for a cure. Once cannot no lose track of the big picture that research will require massive funding that only governmental entities will provide. Today's post is shared from

One Man, One Disease, and a Medical Revolution
By Paul A. Marks and James Sterngold
PublicAffairs, $26.99.

You can’t be against curing cancer, just like you can’t be against motherhood or apple pie. But while the notion of finding “the cure” is immensely appealing, it can be misleading, even misguided.

Marks, a former president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, draws from his long career in cancer research to reveal the complex, messy and fascinating reality that regrettably does not fit neatly onto a bumper sticker.

Marks describes cancer as “the existential illness”: The group of diseases that we lump under a single name arises from the basic mechanics of life. “As long as cell division is the means by which we propagate and survive as a species,” Marks writes, “cancers will develop.” Not exactly a snappy fund-raising rallying cry, but the blunt fact.

“The truth is,” he states, “basic research has been the engine for most of the successes in the war on cancer.” And basic research is open-ended and freewheeling, full of incomparable drudgery, quirky results, frustrating dead ends and unexpected left turns. But this is how scientific knowledge advances, and indeed enormous strides have been made: The death rate for cancer patients in the 35-44 age group, for example, has dropped by half over the last half-century or so.

Marks describes other factors that have contributed to the improved outlook for patients — expanded clinical trials, the development of specialized cancer centers, more accurate diagnostics, patient empowerment, the idea of patient-centered care and more widespread screening tests.

Nevertheless, it is the research at the bench that gets the well-deserved credit. Congressional cuts to the National Institutes of Health are about the worst prescription for cancer you could possibly dream up.

Danielle Ofri, a physician at Bellevue Hospital, is the author of “What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine.”