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Future of Cancer Treatment and Prevention May Be Bleak

September 10, 2008 07:56 AM
by Emily Coakley
As celebrities raise millions for cancer research, a Newsweek article suggests “curing cancer” may be an unattainable goal.

Has Cancer Won?

An article in Newsweek paints a grim picture of the progress made in treating and curing cancer. Each year, cancer still kills more than half a million people, “equivalent to three jumbo jets crashing and killing everyone aboard 365 days a year,” the article states.

“The metaphor of fighting cancer implies the possibility of winning,” Boston oncologist Therese Mulvey told Newsweek. “But some people are just not going to be cured. We’ve made tremendous strides against some cancers, but on others we’re stuck, and even our successes buy some people only a little more time before they die of cancer anyway.”

Other articles have also mentioned the uphill battle against cancer. Studies of tumor genes published last week suggested that their complexity will make finding cures more difficult.

However, there is some hope. The Newsweek article does highlight one bright spot: pediatric cancers. The improved prognosis, Newsweek says, is due to a mix of novel collaborative research and an opponent that is less complex than adult cancers.

And fundraising efforts to underwrite future research continue, often with great success. Just last week, a group of celebrities raised $100 million for cancer research in an hour-long program, “Stand Up to Cancer,” broadcast on the three networks, Fox News reports.

Opinion & Analysis: Overstating the cancer crisis?

Sandy Szwarc, at the blog Junk Food Science, discussed cancer prevalence and statistics in her criticism of the Stand Up to Cancer fundraiser. She sees the situation differently than it was portrayed in Newsweek.

“After an hour of watching Stand Up to Cancer, if you weren’t in tears and scared to death that you or someone you love might already have cancer or be next to die if researchers don’t get money now, you weren’t watching,” she wrote. “Unlike the repeated claim of a ‘growing crisis of cancer,’ however, all facts paint a far more optimistic and hopeful picture. But any balance was missing in this program.”

Szwarc said that according to government statistics, “cancer deaths have been dropping for decades.”

Reference: Cancer Web Guide


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