Why We're Losing the War on Cancer-and How to Win It

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Journalist and cancer survivor Clifton Leaf looks at why we have made such limited progress fighting the disease. In The Truth in Small Doses: Why We're Losing the War on Cancer-and How to Win It describes why the public’s immense investment in research has been badly misspent, why scientists seldom collaborate and share their data, why new drugs are so expensive, and why many scientists are abandoning the search for a cure.


Clifton Leaf

Comments [7]


The author certainly comes across as he suggests, naive. On one hand he acknowledges the unique and often individually distinct nature of cancers, and on the other berates the lack of relative progress in oncology relative to infections and heart disease... Is it really a surprise that in an aging population, with the low hanging medical fruit already picked, that people die in increasing numbers due to cancer?

Overall mortality numbers are meaningless, rates are necessary for rational discussion of incidence of any disease in a population that is changing - in this case, growing and aging.

I was waiting for suggestions of homeopathy and megadoses of vitamin C at any moment... Thank you however for at least the acknowledgement that there is no single cure at the end of the interview.

Jul. 17 2013 01:28 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Mr. Leaf said clinical trials are done w/"very sick people," but there are also trials to test drugs for early-stage cancers, when patients aren't very sick yet. And he said if a phase I drug trial shows a drug has no effect, the researchers say, well, let's see how it does in a phase II trial. From everything I've read (& I'm a medical editor & have edited a lot of info on clinical trials), if a drug doesn't show effects in phase I, you don't do a phase II trial--I don't think it would even be approved.

Jul. 16 2013 12:44 PM
Mollie from Kingston, NY

The larger problem is the way the our western culture views disease, and thus the way it talks about disease, e.g. instituting a "war" on cancer. Plenty of people in this country know the wisdom of traditional medicine, established in much older and wiser cultures. But the U.S. always thinks it knows better, and seeks ways for us to ignore common wisdom. These ways almost always involve driving money to the top tiers of the economy. Taking care of your body and soul are the key to health. Not searching for "cures." Because the cures can't be found in a medical lab. They're right here in front of us, but we are encouraged to ignore them.

Jul. 16 2013 12:43 PM
Dan Welsh from South Salem, NY

So far no mention of prevention and the proliferation of carcinogenic agents in the environment. Instead of pouring all of these resources into the search for a cure, some certainly should be applied to reducing our exposure to these and thereby keeping people out of the pipeline. That would be more cost effective, save much misery and help halt environmental degredation. Of course pharmaceutical companies will not lobby for this.

Jul. 16 2013 12:39 PM
gene from NYC

How can you talk about this without discussing tobacco??

For example, while male lung cancer rates are going down, women's lc rates are skyrocketing, right in lockstep with the Billie Jean King/Virginia Slims targeting of women.

Jul. 16 2013 12:28 PM
Tony from Canarsie

From Alexander Nazaryan's New Yorker review of Mr. Leaf's book:

Earlier in June, researchers discovered a tumor of the rib bone of a Neanderthal believed to be a hundred and twenty thousand years old. What plagued him then still plagues us today, much as it plagued Atossa, the ancient Persian queen who is believed to have suffered from breast cancer, as well as the London chimney sweeps stricken with scrotal malignancies. This war has been a long one.

Jul. 16 2013 12:11 PM
antonio from baySide

Is a part of the lack of success due to the firm exclusion of alternative methods?

Jul. 16 2013 12:09 PM

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