beckyg Posted March 19, 2004 Share Posted March 19, 2004 Curtis picked up Fortune magazine yesterday at Wal-Mart--the cover article is something like "Why we are losing the war on cancer, and how to win." In some ways it is a pretty depressing article--it basically says that apart from a few kinds if cancers (mostly childhood cancers and leukemias) most of the improvement in survivial rates across the board for cancer in the last 30 years has come from improved detection. In 1970, about 50% of people diagnosed with cancer lived 5 years. Now that number is up to 63%, with most of the difference being people diagnosed earlier than they used to be. However, the interesting part was what was said about how to fix the problem. The article says that the real problem is how research is funded--that researchers get grants for studies that answer very narrow questions . The funding just isn't there for people who want to look at cancer systemically, so this is why clinical trials and so many of the drugs coming out are about incremental changes--this drug shirnks tumors in 12% of patients rather than in 10% like the stabdard therapy. Being in academia myslef, I know very well this is the way researtch money goes out--agencies funding research like hard science to come out, with all the loose ends tied up, and you can't do that if your scope is too big. But they point out in the article that we didn't make the strides we have on the last 30 years against heart disease by tying up all the loose ends before changing treatment. We know that not everyone with high cholesterol or hypertension will have a heart attack, but we treat those things because they are big risk factors. We don't do the same with cancer--nothing changes until the science is "well understood". The other thing I found interesting was that several of the doctors compared cancer to AIDS in this way. There really was no good control over AIDS until they found the right "cocktail" of drugs. I don't know how many drugs are in that cocktail, but it is a pretty big set, I think. The researchers interviewed believe that the key to cotrolling cancer is going to be cocktails of drugs--maybe 6 or more drugs at a time. Thi9s again is were research protocols are causing a problem--if you test 6 drugs on human studies and they have bad reactions, it is hard to figure out where the problem is. I am not knocking Scientific Method--I am a scientist at heart and I think it is important to understand as much as possible. I just wish we could find a better balance. I think there is plenty of money out there for cancer research--I just don't think it is being spent as well as it could be. Anyway, read the article if you are interested. I think I hit most of the highlights here. Becky Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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