Monday, 6 August 2007

Why is the "war on cancer" taking so long to win?

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There were many letters to the editor last week about the New York Times feature piece on cancer. One struck me as particularly interesting.

Abraham R. Liboff, an emeritus professor of physics at Oakland University, questions why the "war on cancer" is taking so long, after three decades of research that is costing billions of dollars per year. He writes:

The terrible confusion for cancer patients, the need to search out the right physician, the multiplicity of treatment decisions and the requirement that one must deal with a variety of specialists - all these difficulties stem from the unspoken fact that medicine still does not have a firm understanding of the underlying basis for cancer ...

As a physical scientist with a background in medicine, I sense there is something very misdirected in all of the current research in the war on cancer, whether it involves oncologists, molecular biologists, pharmacologists, radiotherapists or surgeons. This array of talent apparently does not cut the mustard ...

A new perspective on cancer is urgently needed, along with better generals to fight this disease.

As a fellow scientist who has worked in biomedical research, my response to this question is that cancer is just that complicated. While we must continue to work on understanding the basics of the cell, at the same time, we also need to continue coming at cancer from all angles.

Why do you think the "war on cancer" taking so long to win?

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