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moonshots, cancer, and rocket science


Cancer Cure

Few would argue that Cancer is one bad dude.  All of us have friends and loved ones that have been laid low. In fact, it was just a couple of weeks ago I was a pall bearer for a dear friend who left behind his wife and six children under the age of 12.  Similar stories are common.

The death of Vice President, Joe Biden’s 46 year old son from a brain tumor last May was just another confirmation that Cancer is no respecter of persons.  Although it’s not difficult to understand why Biden issued still another “moonshot” for a cure —- this one for Cancer (there are currently other “moonshots” going on for other diseases, including ALZHEIMER’S), we have to ask ourselves whether his plea a good use of resources (i.e. tax dollars).

Despite the fact that Richard Nixon declared war on Cancer back in the 1971, another of the dirty little secrets of medicine is that we have not seen nearly as much progress against the disease as we have been led to believe.  Writing for the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1986 (Progress Against Cancer?) researchers crunched thirty years of data and concluded that Nixon’s war was an abject failure.  “We are losing the war against cancer, notwithstanding progress against several uncommon forms of the disease, improvements in palliation, and extension of the productive years of life. A shift in research emphasis, from research on treatment to research on prevention, seems necessary if substantial progress against cancer is to be forthcoming.”   But the beat went on.

  • Taking a page out of Nixon’s handbook and putting far too much emphasis on the new found power of genetics (HERE), in his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Bill Clinton stated, “Tonight, as part of our gift to the millennium, I propose a 21st century research fund for pathbreaking scientific inquiry, the largest funding increase in history for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Cancer Institute. We have already discovered genes for breast cancer and diabetes. I ask you to support this initiative so ours will be the generation that finally wins the war against cancer and begins a revolution in our fight against all deadly diseases.

  • That same year, Vice President Al Gore told the Toledo Blade that, “We want to be the first generation that finally wins the war on cancer For the first time, the enemy is outmatched.

  • Not to be outdone, President GW Bush not only had his own cancer initiative and medical moonshot while in office, promising to “fund and lead a medical moonshot to reach far beyond what seems possible today“.  Since turning over the presidency to Obama, he and his institute have been active in fighting both BREAST CANCER and Cervical Cancer, as well as crusading against Cancer in Africa.

  • Not one to be left out, last July, President Obama issued his overly optimistic 21st Century Cures Act — which in rare fashion, was passed into law with heavy bipartisan support.  In it, an outline to “cure” any number of diseases, including Cancer.

  • Former FDA Commissioner and Director of the National Cancer Institute, Andrew C. von Eschenbach (a true industry insider) said back in 2003 that our government would, “eliminate suffering and death” of Cancer.  His goal for accomplishing this feat?  Last year.

Are we doing any better today.   Despite what we would be told, unfortunately not (HERE).  In fact , those in the know tend to believe that this is another of the medical problems that we cannot spend or treat our way out of (HERE).  And just how much is all of this costing us?  According to Alex Lubischer of Chicago Health (Funding the Cancer War) Cancer carries a huge price tag.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), all U.S. healthcare expenditures related to cancer in 2009 cost the U.S. an estimated $86.6 billion. If you factor in $130 billion for indirect mortality costs (the toll of lost productivity due to premature deaths), that’s $216.6 billion in one year.  Furthermore, The National Cancer Institute (NCI, a branch of the NIH) has spent roughly $90 billion on research and treatment since 1971. Additionally, about 260 nonprofit organizations in the United States have dedicated themselves to cancer research, which amounts to combined annual budgets of $2.2 billion.

Part of the problem is that if you ask different experts what Cancer is, you’ll get a rather wide array of answers.  This is because “cancer” is not all the same stuff.   Furthermore, if all we have to show for trillions of dollars spent is the fact that Cancer is little more than a “random” event (HERE), we really are spinning our wheels — a thought recently echoed by any number of medial outlets, including STAT’s recent Moonshot to Cure Cancer.  We’ve Heard that Before.  Many Times.

The problem is that we are going about this all wrong.  JFK’s original “Moonshot” was handled by engineers, physicists, and rocket scientists.  It was an incredible feat of engineering that essentially required us to overcome gravity and other laws of physics.  For any number of reasons, curing Cancer is different.  The reality of the situation is that “curing” Cancer is going to require something of us besides more tax dollars.  We are actually going to have to follow the advice of NEJM’s 30 year old study I quoted from earlier —- emphasizing prevention instead of cure.  What does prevention look like?

First, let me say that nothing in this life is foolproof — including Cancer Prevention.  We all know healthy people who have died of Cancer (my friend was as healthy as they come), as well as living mummies that have been walking this earth for 80 or 90 years, embalming themselves with liberal amounts of cheap vodka and the preservative powers of THREE PACKS a day.  However, there are some generalities we can make in our own personal war against Cancer. 

  • UNDERSTAND INFLAMMATION AND EAT ACCORDINGLY:  Cancer is one of THE MYRIAD OF HEALTH ISSUES driven by Inflammation.  Problem is, I don’t find one in a thousand people who can really tell me what Inflammation is.  Using anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements are wonderful, but if you want to get down to brass tacks, mopping up Inflammation after the fact is not the best way to accomplish this.  Instead, stop Inflammation at its source (HERE).   Reading my article SUGAR DRIVES INFLAMMATION is a good start.  Make sure to follow it up with SUGAR FEEDS CANCER (there are two parts).

  • UNDERSTAND GUT HEALTH:  I won’t belabor this point, but it might be the most important in this list.  HERE are my posts on the topic.

  • REALIZE THAT CHEMICALS (DRUGS INCLUDED) ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND:  Your immune system is mostly made up of the bacteria that live in your Gut.  Just yesterday the CDC’s American College of Physicians said that half of all prescriptions of ANTIBIOTICS are unnecessary (not to mention, THEY THEMSELVES ARE A KNOWN CAUSE OF CANCER).   It is critical to understand that the DRUG CULTURE we live in is not doing us any favors as far as Cancer is concerned.  Although most of us would agree that things like pesticides and herbicides are bad news, most of us fail to grasp that we are polluting ourselves daily with the multitude of chemicals we use in our bathrooms (think personal HYGIENE here).

  • DON’T FORGET TO EXERCISE:  There is plenty of research showing the benefits of exercise as far as Cancer is concerned.  However, it is also important to remember that intense exercise for substantial periods of time — i.e hardcore cardio —- leads to the precursor of all disease, including Cancer; LEAKY GUT SYNDROMEEXERCISING properly is important, but not a fraction as important as diet.

What should you do if you’ve already been diagnosed with Cancer?  Not sure what to tell you.  One thing I can tell you is that you can follow at least part of this or a similar protocol even if you are dealing with your Cancer in the traditional medical manner (chemo, RADIATION, etc) — something few doctors ever talk about (HERE and HERE).   For the most part, preventing, or at least slowing down, Cancer does not require a moonshot.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that by and large we are our own worst enemies.  A national change of diet and lifestyle would go a long way toward Biden’s goal.


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