July 21, 2024

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America declared war on cancer half a century ago. Today’s regulatory hurdles won’t help us win

2 min read

Bruce Ratner is a philanthropist and real estate developer. He is the co-author of Early Detection: Catching Cancer When It’s Curable.

In late 2015, my brother Michael Ratner was brought to the hospital with feelings of nausea. Eventually, he was taken to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for treatment of a metastatic brain tumor. He was 71 years old and was one of the most famous human rights lawyers in the world. Despite his prominence, and Sloan Kettering’s excellence, by May 11 of 2016 he was dead. 

My brother’s tragic end points to everything we are doing wrong on cancer. When President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer on Dec. 23, 1971, he had hopes that cancer would be cured within five years. More than half a century later, we have yet to come close to winning that war.

We spend $200 billion annually treating cancer and yet it remains the second leading cause of death in the U.S., killing over 600,000 Americans annually. The time has come to reconsider our approach to this dread disease. Even though Nixon’s war has not yet been won, we have learned a tremendous amount about cancer over the last 50 years, including the fact that early detection is the single best thing we can do to reduce cancer deaths. Treatment is of course necessary, and terrific oncologists at Sloan Kettering and other top cancer centers do tremendous work, but they are fighting an uphill battle against cancers caught too late in the game.

There are already some effective tests that catch cancers early, including well-known screenings such as low-dose (and low-cost) CT scans for lung cancer, mammograms for breast cancer, Pap smears for cervical cancer, PSA blood tests for prostate cancer, and colonoscopies for colon cancer. Unfortunately, these tests are not enough. Approximately 70% of total cancer deaths come from cancers that currently lack recommended screening. 

We need to capitalize on the emergence of a whole…

Bruce Ratner

2024-06-18 10:00:19

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