Cancer Inc. – Cancer 17

In the early 20th century, cancer didn’t attract much attention. The biggest health problems were infectious diseases — pneumonia, gastrointestinal and tuberculosis. The American Society for the Control of Cancer was created in 1913 and stressed the importance of early detection and aggressive treatment. In the 1940s, they championed the routine use of the Pap smear for cervical cancer. It was hugely and stunningly successful as death rates from cervical cancer dropped quickly. This was an auspicious start. In 1944, the ASCC changed its name to the American Cancer Society.

But deaths from infections would drop precipitously over the first half of the century due to improving sanitation and the momentous discovery of antibiotics. Increasing life expectancy meant that heart disease and cancer became increasingly important diseases. Since 1900, the death toll from cancer steamed relentlessly forward like a runaway freight train. The public was starting to notice, and was getting justifiably concerned.

Finally, deciding that enough was enough, then President of the United States, Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971. His State of the Union address actually never mentioned the word ‘war’, instead he proposed “an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer”. He signed The National Cancer Act into law and injected nearly $1.6 billion into cancer research. Optimism ran high. America had just put a man on the moon with the Apollo program. They had ushered in the atomic age with the Manhattan Project. Cancer? Pffff… that was child’s play. Some scientists enthusiastically predicted that cancer would be cured in time to celebrate America’s Bicentennial in 1976.

The Bicentennial came and went, and the cure for cancer was no closer to being found. By 1981, the 10th anniversary of the war on cancer, the New York Times wondered whether this decade long war “brought real progress against this dreaded disease, or has it been an extravagant $7.5 billion misfire?” Cancer deaths continued their ruthless climb, and the past decade’s efforts hadn’t even slowed its ascent one bit. The ‘war on cancer’ was a complete rout.

This was not news to insiders, like the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Dr. John Bailar III. He was also a consultant to the New England Journal of Medicine (then and now, still the most influential medical journal in the world) and a lecturer at Harvard’s School of Public Health. In the 1970s, Dr. Bailar III started to question the effectiveness of the entire cancer research program eventually leaving the NCI in 1980. He pondered this question of what real progress had been made against cancer in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the two decades from 1962 to 1982, the number of Americans who died of cancer increased by 56%. Adjusting for the increased population, this still represented a 25% increase in the rate of death from cancer, at a time when virtually every other disease showed decreasing mortality. Bailar III noted that the data “provide no evidence that some 35 years of intense and growing efforts to improve the treatment of cancer have had much overall effect on the most fundamental measure of clinical outcome — death. Indeed, with respect to cancer as a whole, we have slowly lost ground”. He wondered aloud “Why is cancer the only major cause of death for which age-adjusted mortality rates are still increasing?”

As an insider on the cancer wars, published in the most prominent medical journal in the world, he had yelled out ‘The emperor has no clothes’ in the hopes of energizing new thinking and new research in the stultifying morass of cancer research, which had been mummifying in reiterations of the same cancer paradigms that had failed so utterly. Bailar III just took the first step to fixing a problem, which is admitting that one exists.

But the rest of the cancer establishment was not yet ready to admit a problem. His article received heavy criticism, being called “erroneous’ at best, and ‘reprehensible’ at worst. In the polite world of academia, this language was tantamount to the highest profanity. Dr. Bailar III became almost universally reviled within the cancer research community he had once lead. His motives and intelligence were routinely questioned. Vincent DeVita Jr, then the NCI director, called his first paper reprehensible, irresponsible and misleading while implying that Bailar himself had “departed with reality”. The president of the Americal Society of Clinical Oncology called Bailar “the great naysayer of our time”. The personal attacks were plentiful, but there was simply no denying the statistics.

In the previous four decades, due to steady improvements in public health, sanitation and medical science, the crude death rate from things other than cancer dropped by 24%. Deaths from cancer increased 14%. The problem of cancer was indeed getting worse but nobody wanted to acknowledge it. The cancer researcher community responded to the message that cancer situation was deteriorating, by killing the messenger. Everything is awesome, they said, even as the bodies piled up.

Little had changed 11 years later, when Dr. Bailar III published a follow up paper called ‘Cancer Undefeated”. The death rate from cancer had increased by another 2.7% from 1982 to 1994. The war on cancer was not just a rout, it was a massacre. Yet still, the cancer world still could not admit there was a problem with their current research. Yes, there were some notable successes. Cancer death rates for children had dropped by about 50 percent since the 1970s. But cancer is the quintessential disease of aging, so this was a major victory in a minor skirmish. Of the 529,904 deaths due to cancer in 1993, only 1699 (3%) were in children. Cancer was delivering punishing upper cuts to our face, and we had managed to tousle Cancer’s fancy hairdo.

The war on cancer was reinvigorated by the continuing revolution in genetics throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Aha! Cancer, we thought, is a genetic disease. Perhaps at long last, we knew our ancient enemy. We opened a new front in the war on cancer, focusing our efforts on finding cancer’s genetic weaknesses. A massive multinational collaboration that saw the 2003 completion of the Human Genome Project would be the first step cure cancer, we thought. This culmination of genetic knowledge that would lay out a battlefield map against cancer. But this historic milestone came and went, and we were no further in our war. An even more ambitious scheme, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) was hatched. Not only 1 human genome would be mapped, but hundreds. But this, too came and went.

We believed the war on cancer would be a high-tech war of laser beams, smart weapons and nuclear arsenals. Instead, it was reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War I. The front lines never moved, the war dragged on without noticeable progress, and the bodies piled up.

The filibuster in cancer stands in stark contrast to the dizzying progress in other areas of medicine. From 1969–2014, total deaths from heart disease dropped approximately 17% despite the increasing population base in the United States. But cancer? Well, cancer is a problem. During that same time period, deaths from cancer rose a chilling 84%.

By 2009, the New York Times now proclaimed that “Advances Elusive in the Drive to Cure Cancer” noting that the adjusted death rate for cancer had dropped only 5% from 1950 to 2005, compared to heart disease deaths, which had dropped 64% and for flu and pneumonia, which had dropped by 58%. Once again, an American president, this time Barack Obama promised to “launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American, including me, by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.” Nobel Prize laureate James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix of DNA, ruefully noted in 2009 that cancer killed 560,000 Americans in 2006, more than 200,000 more than in 1970, the year before the ‘war’ began.

The costs have been far from insignificant. The 2019 budget for the National Cancer Institute is $5.74 billion, all of which came from tax revenue. Non-profit organizations have proliferated like mushrooms after a rainstorm. By one count, there are more non-profits dedicated to cancer than those for heart disease, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Combined. In 2013, there were 339 cancer charities in Canada pulling in a massive $644 million. These non-profits are funded by the multitude of Walks for Cancer, to pink ribbon campaigns to Stand Up to Cancer Telethons to the Race for the Cure in New York’s Central Park.

In the United States,the American Cancer Society (ACS) generates over $800 million per year in donations to fund ‘the cause’. While we often think about thousands of volunteers working hand in hand to cure cancer, the reality is far less idyllic. In 2016, the ACS paid 368 employees more than $100,000 each. The former chief operating officer Gregory Bontrager was paid $2,343,992. The lowest paid member of the leadership team took home almost half a million dollars in 2016. The LOWEST paid. Gary Reedy, the CEO paid himself a total package of $820,777. It’s little wonder that pessimists call this ‘Cancer Inc.’ While encouraging all the little old men and women to donate their last $10 for one of their lucrative ‘Relays for Life’, these executives were gorging at the massive bosom of Cancer Inc. But isn’t the ACS a non-profit? Of course. It’s hard to make profits when you are paying executives like they’re Steve Jobs.

But what about all these cancer breakthroughs we keep hearing about? Many new cancer medications didn’t even exist years ago. Surely these shiny new weapons must be helpful in the war on cancer. Well, yes and no. They certainly have made a difference, but not a big one. Cancer drugs are approved in the United States by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) if they show efficacy with minimal side effects (toxicity). But efficacy can be defined in many different ways.

The gold standard is to prove that new cancer drugs allow patients to live longer.  But there are other ways to call a drug effective. Unfortunately, from 1990-2002 (Ref: J Clin Oncol 2003 Apr 1;21(7):1404-11. End points and United States Food and Drug Administration approval of oncology drugs. Johnson JR et al) fully 68% of the FDA approvals for cancer drugs were given for those other reasons. If these drugs did not improve survival, what did they actually do? The most common reason for approval is called the ‘partial tumor response rate’, which means that the primary tumor shrank in volume by over 50%. That sounds pretty good except that this measure is completely irrelevant to a patient’s health.

Cancer is deadly because of its propensity to spread, or metastasize. Cancer kills because it spreads, not because it is big. There is a subset of cancers that don’t metastasize, which are called ‘benign’ because they very rarely cause significant disease. Cancers that metastasize are called ‘malignant’ because of their propensity to kill. Often, benign cancers aren’t even called cancer, but a tumor, which is defined as a collection of abnormal cells, whether benign or malignant.

For example, the very common lipoma, affecting approximately 2% of people at age 50, is a benign cancer of fat cells. It may grow to reach sizes up to 40 pounds. Yet despite this enormous bulk, this benign cancer is still not life-threatening. On the other hand, a malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer) may weigh only 0.1 pounds and be thousands of times deadlier because of its propensity to spread. Once spread throughout the body, many cancers become unstoppable.

For this reason, local cancer treatments such as surgery or radiation are useless once a cancer has metastasized. Surgeons go to great lengths in the quest to ‘get it all’. They will cut huge swaths of normal tissues out of cancer patients to remove even the faintest rumor of a whiff of cancer cells. Surgery for cancer is only performed to prevent metastasis, not because the cancer is too big. A cancer medication’s ability to reduce the size of a tumor is irrelevant to overall survival. It is analogous to doing surgery to remove half of the cancer – almost completely useless. Every surgeon in the world would refuse to operate because it’s just stupid. And they would be correct. Getting half the cancer is no better than getting none of it.

Yet, the majority of new cancer drugs were approved based solely upon this completely useless marker of ‘efficacy’.  From 1990-2002, 71 new drug approvals were granted, although due to approvals for multiple cancers, this only translated into 45 new drugs. Defining efficacy more rigorously as actually saving lives, only 12 medications cleared this bar in the 12 years from 1990-2002. These drugs mostly only extended life by only a few weeks or months. In that same time, the phrase ‘cancer breakthrough’ appeared in 691 published articles. The strange math goes like this:

691 breakthroughs = 71 cancer drug approvals = 45 drugs = 12 drugs that barely extended patients’ lives

All these shiny new weapons in the war on cancer amounted to a jeweled handle on a broken sword. It looked great, but is largely useless. That’s just the way it is for Cancer Inc.

2019-03-06T11:16:09-05:0019 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Fung is a Toronto based kidney specialist, having graduated from the University of Toronto and finishing his medical specialty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. He is the author of the bestsellers ‘The Obesity Code’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’. He has pioneered the use of therapeutic fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal in his IDM clinic.

19
Leave a Reply

avatar
13 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
17 Comment authors
Joe MChanKen HampshireHarveyLynne Voyle Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Brian
Guest
Brian

Totally agree that the current medical approach to cancer is not working,
and the side effects are often worse than the cancer.
What regimen would you suggest?
Thanks

Patricia Woodbury-Kuvik
Guest
Patricia Woodbury-Kuvik

Yet the simple fact that cancer rates have increased side but side with the increases in: industrialized farming, chemical fertilizers and pesticides killing soil microbes and bees, increased air and water pollution, increases in medical imaging, antibiotics and hormones added to animal feeds, the chemically sanitized household – these relatively ships are rarely discussed.

Harvey
Guest
Harvey

Agree to a certain point. Most cancers are the result of lifestyle choices (see my comment above) – Alcohol and tobacco consumption, unprotected UV exposure, lack of physical activity, processed foods, etc.
Switching from a reactive approach to a pro-active one health wise and we will see the incidence of cancers and disease decline.

Me
Guest

What do you make of the use of SV40 in the polio vaccine? It introduces a cancer causing virus into the body that self-replicates and has been documented to be passed down to offspring. Is that why they say cancer is genetic?

Kiril
Guest
Kiril

@Me, what sources do you have to substantiate this claim? I’m extremely skeptical.

Sally
Guest
Sally

Can cancer cells survive when the body is in ketosis? I understand that the body can get energy thru ketosis when in fasting mode but can the cancer cells use this energy or are they “starved”?

Samuel
Guest
Samuel

Here is a presentation by a renowned biochemist, https://youtu.be/S395qX6G6HM It may not be the reduction in blood serum glucose so much as the reduction in blood serum insulin that stalls the growth of a cancer cell. Low insulin levels result from a ketogenic diet. Note the remarks on neurological diseases, especially epilepsy, and Alzheimers. When insulin levels are high cancer cells hog the glucose, and this provides a way to identify then. You can lower the glucose, but if the insulin level stays high it apparently is all for naught. This presentation for me just further supports Seyfried’s idea of… Read more »

Amir Bendayan
Guest
Amir Bendayan

Outstanding expose of the monster business that Cancer, Inc. has become over the last century. Producing tons of marketing to create an appearance of success is part of the secret while hiding the bodies that are piling up. With all this backstory, you have to question whether this industry is really looking for a solution to the problem or simply for a way to perpetuate the disease in order to keep sucking billions of dollars out of desperate human beings?

Javier Luis y Prado
Guest
Javier Luis y Prado

Cancer Inc´s irresponsible, negligent and unscientific approach to landing a truly effective cancer cure is very similar to the current non-curing standard treatments for diabetes I and II, where all they do is prescribe drugs(reaping in big bucks for Big Pharma) without treating the unhealthy dietary habits that set on such medical conditions. Such medical organizations ought to be sued for their continued scientific negligence based on the current statistics on the proliferation of diabetes and cancer…

Chan
Guest
Chan

“They” have already found the cancer cure but why would they choose a simple cure when they can win money with useless cancer treatments that can last for years ? it’s like comparing a 1-time expense versus a monthly subscription for years

trackback

[…] Fung writes about cancer in his books and his blog. Here is one such blog […]

davebartell
Member
davebartell

It’s great to see you continue the blog. There are so many of us who have experienced loss and want to contribute in any way we can. And, it’s sad to see our volunteering and donations used to perpetrate Cancer Inc. which is a subsidiary of Drugs Inc. There are victories. I’m grateful for modern Prostate cancer methods that are helping me. Others have had similar survival. But, you are in the right to call out the aggregate failure of cancer research and hoovering up of vast pools of money. Who wouldn’t donate to a cancer walk? How could anyone… Read more »

Rosanna
Guest
Rosanna

Hi Dave! I would love to know what treatment protocols you are doing that has helped you with healing from prostate cancer. My Dad is 86 years old, and will start Androgen deprivation therapy soon. He is overall doing fine. PSA last year in Aug was 200. We are giving him supplements to help with his immunity. I know every one responds differently but would LOVE to know more about options. Thank you so much Dave!

SHAN
Guest
SHAN

A good analysis of how tax payers money get wasted without any benefits to tax payers. The intention is to make money and not cure cancer. There was a cure for cancer way back in 1927 by Johanna Brandt (REF: The Grape Cure available on Amazon), but Big Pharma never wanted to do research on this as there is no money in it. Fruits and Fasting are the simplistic approach to cure any ‘labelled’ conditions called dis-eases. There is only one disease called Toxicity. Everything else is just labels fitting ICD codes to get paid. So, just De-Tox with fruits… Read more »

scot
Guest

Hello Dr. Jason, Another great blog post. thank you. I feel this is leading to dr. Segfried’s work? or dr. Warburg’s? I wonder if since the age of industrialization with it’s uncontrolled polluting, chemical dumping, and warfare has/is the key to the rise of cancer. How long have they been spraying stuff in the fields, 1890’s or so?
Fascinating.

Lynne Voyle
Guest
Lynne Voyle

Can anyone say “hidden agendas everywhere”. What good would a drug be if it’s 100% effective? There’s no repeat business in a cure.

Harvey
Guest
Harvey

The problem with our health care system is that the medical schools teach treating disease reactively. The focus needs to be entirely on proactive health management and the prevention of disease. We all have those tools readily at our disposal. Some straightforward examples are Lung Cancer. Number one cause of death by cancer and for the most part, preventable. Another one, melanoma. Again, largely preventable. Most cancers (not all) are influenced by lifestyle and a few by genetic disposition. Poor dietary choices, lack of physical activity, tobacco and alcohol consumption, processed foods, etc. If we could change the system from… Read more »

Ken Hampshire
Guest
Ken Hampshire

In August of 2012, when I was 56 years old, I was diagnosed with Stage 3, very aggressive, smooth muscle invasive bladder cancer. The recommended treatment was radical cystectomy (removal of my prostate, bladder, and urethra) followed by 4 weeks of chemo. I was given a 75% chance of survival at 5 years if I underwent the recommended procedures. I did not. Instead, I decided to seek treatment at a clinic outside the Purdue University Campus headed by Dr. Claudia Hanau. Dr. Hanau is the world’s authority on the work of Dr. D. James Morre, former head of the Cancer… Read more »

Joe M
Guest
Joe M

Can’t resist… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StTqXEQ2l-Y “Everything is Awesome!”