DEAR DR. BLONZ: More and more people that I talk with about cancer have been losing faith in the medical community to come up with answers. Their thoughts are that there may, in fact, be cures for cancer; however, having a cure would put so many pharmaceutical companies and medical practitioners out of work that the cures, if they exist, will never be properly researched, publicized or made available. Millions in donations get raised to combat various cancers and other diseases, but where are the results? Not one advancement in finding a cure? Come on! It makes one want to turn to alternatives, as they, at least, promise success. -- T.S., San Jose, California
DEAR T.S.: Why does science take so long to come up with its cures? Frustration leads to a tendency to believe the worst about the medical/pharmaceutical communities. This approach is all too easy to embrace by those who suffer.
We have made amazing progress along many fronts, despite the fact that sophisticated medical research has not been around for very long. Our understanding of the variety of mechanisms of the various types of cancer has grown dramatically. We are poised for great advances on the treatment side -- ones that can take into account the genetic characteristics of the disease as well as the genes of the individual who has had the misfortune to develop it.
It takes enormous amounts of money to do this research, and there is less and less coming from federal funding. We might think that our government has a moral responsibility to fund such research, but our representatives seem loath to enact higher taxes to make it happen. This shifts the burden, or perhaps opportunity, to corporate laboratories, but these are profit-making institutions that have to answer to their stockholders.
It is not ideal, but there is no logic to jumping from this situation to one in which you embrace remedies with no testing or scientific foundation. All they have is a sales-pitch preceded by a condemnation of the status quo.
The ideal physician or researcher is noble in motivation -- at least, most start out that way. It is wrong to think that someone with a handle on a cure would not follow through to find out whether it is valid. Every scientist I know would relish the chance to be on a team that helped end a dreaded disease.
I do appreciate your need to vent. For my part, I promise to remain vigilant in my readings. I've been in the scientific field for a while, and if I believed there was something out there that was being silenced inappropriately, I'd raise my voice to a scream. In the meantime, I will continue to take issue with situations in which personal tragedy and frustration degenerate into a financial opportunity to push questionable remedies on desperate people.
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