Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Effectiveness of the "War on Cancer"

One of the few controversial areas of my book, Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, is where I compare progress in saving lives from extreme weather versus cancer, heart disease and automobile accidents where progress has been much slower.

Over at The Daily Caller, Margaret Cuomo makes the point this way:

What happened to ending cancer?
Simply put, we have not adequately channeled our scientific know-how, funding, and energy into a full exploration of the one path certain to save lives: prevention. That it should become the ultimate goal of cancer research has been recognized since the war on cancer began. When I look at NCI’s budget request for fiscal year 2012, I’m deeply disappointed, though past experience tells me I shouldn’t be surprised. It is business as usual at the nation’s foremost cancer research establishment. More than $2 billion is requested for basic research into the mechanism and causes of cancer. Another $1.3 billion is requested for treatment. And cancer prevention and control? It gets $232 million altogether. (Remarkably, in the very same budget report, the NCI states, “Much of the progress against cancer in recent decades has stemmed from successes in the areas of prevention and control.”)
The failure to give prevention its due has been a longstanding complaint. 

Adding those numbers you get $3.6 billion in 2012 but that does not include the entirety of our spending on cancer treatment.

And, channeling Bruce Charlton, she also writes,

With the “war on cancer,” we may have created a framework that allows us to declare a stalemate, with no expectation of ultimate victory. We may have put generals in charge who think we should start talking about living with cancer as the “new normal.” At least that is what the director of the National Cancer Institute seems to be suggesting when he talks about “making cancer a disease you can live with and go to work with.” 

I've said many times there are things medicine could learn from meteorology. That point is more valid than ever.

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