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January 27, 2016

Viewpoints: Cure Cancer

IPI expert referenced: Merrill Matthews | In The News | Media Hit
  Point of View

By Kerby Anderson

In his last State of the Union address, President Obama set an ambitious goal to cure cancer. The previous year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America could cure cancer. That is what President Obama called for this nation to do. Although I applaud the goal, it is worth looking at some of the medical facts that will make it hard to achieve the goal set forth by the president.

First, cancer isn’t a single disease. The term cancer is a catchall name for more than 200 diseases. Just about any cellular disease where you have an uncontrolled proliferation of cells could be called cancer. That means that treatments will vary dramatically depending on the type of cancer you might have. Cancers of the blood are very different from cancers that affect skin cells or lung cells or bone cells.

Second, the idea of a cure isn’t a term that too many oncologists use. A cure would imply that the cancer is gone. They might talk about being cancer free for five years. They may instead talk about survival rates, which, by the way, have increased dramatically in the last few decades.

Third, our success in effectively treating cancer is probably going to come from the private sector not the government. Dr. Merrill Matthews reminds us that: “the government doesn’t find cures, the private sector does. The National Institutes of Health, the umbrella agency for the National Cancer Institute, does basic research. The drug companies translate those efforts into actual medicines. And drug companies have poured billions into cancer research—far more than the federal government—money that they, not taxpayers, will lose if those drugs fail.”

Any success in raising cancer survival rates will probably come from the private sector not from a government moonshot.


 

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