Cell; Why cancer research fails'
Avery Publishing Group USA 1994,
From The Author:
I have spent
about one-half of my adult life as a scientist in cancer research.
from the world of the surgical pathology lab - where I studied tumors
removed from the bodies of living cancer patients - to the rarefield
world of medical school research on cells living in petri dishes,
I have immersed myself in knowledge about one of the greatest scourges
of our time. And I have learned that there is a vast and deadly
gap between the reality of cancer, which strikes human beings, and
the theory of cancer, which thousands of researchers are using in
their search for a cure.
There is an
East Indian folktale, about a group of blind men and an elephant,
that is tragically descriptive of the state of cancer research today.
In the fable, several blind men are asked to describe an elephant.
One, after feeling the elephant's trunk, asserts that it is "very
like a snake." Another, feeling a leg, insists it is "very
like a tree." Another, feeling the tail, insists it is "very
like a rope." Each leaves the scene certain that his impression
In cancer research,
most scientists are in a far worse position than the blind men of
the fable. The blind men were gathering what data they could from
an actual elephant. Most cancer researchers, using all their faculties,
are investigating an un-natural "animal" created in the
laboratory, mistakenly applying their data to the real "elephant"
of human cancer.
of my colleagues are aware of this gap, few are willing to risk
their careers by discussing it openly. In the absence of public
debate, cancer scientists around the country are free to propagate
the myth of a productive "war on cancer." No one wants
to admit that this so-called war has been a worthless investment
of taxpayers' money and scientists' time. But as more and more money
is spent, with fewer and fewer meaningful results, increasing numbers
of patients and their families, taxpayers, and politicians want
to know the reasons why.
can be found within the hallowed halls of the National Cancer Institute
and other bastions of the cancer establishment, where well-funded
scientists are tilting at the molecular windmills of their favourite
laboratory representation of cancer - cells growing in petri dishes.
Almost everything in science and medicine, including the development
of effective treatments, hangs on the reliability of these experimental
models. In cancer, the use of these unnatural cells as a model for
the human disease has been directly responsible for our ongoing
defeat. The cultures, termed cell lines, give incorrect and clinically
useless information about cancer.
I came to the
world of academia from the hospital environment, after more than
a decade of working with tumors removed from the bodies of living
cancer patients. The discrepancies between what I knew of human
cancer and what I read in research journals and saw in researchers'
petri dishes were so striking that I could not keep silent. But
soon I learned the fate of those who would challenge a fashionable
and very productive research model, however incorrect it might be.
is shielded from the public by high minded pronouncements and scientific
jargon, the cancer establishment is afflicted with a mental and
moral malaise. It is more interested in maintaining the status quo
than in finding the answers to the cancer riddle, and will defend
that status quo against all comers. Its struggle to retain credibility
and power may well last decades and cost millions of lives, unless
the source of its funding - the taxpaying public - demands reform.
I tried to
interest the media in the problems in the cancer industry. I wrote
letters and made phone calls, but no one wanted to get involved.
The medical reporter from the Arizona Republic was concerned that
if he wrote stories critical of cancer research, the Cancer Center
of the University of Arizona School of Medicine would no longer
give him its stories. I encountered similar resistance throughout
the media. Finally, in the summer of 1989, I realized that if this
story were ever to be made known to the public, I would have to
do it myself. I knew that most effective force for change is informed
citizens demanding it. The result is The Immortal Cell.
This book was
written to alert the public to the truth behind the failed war on
cancer. I wrote it as neither a journalist nor a practising physician,
but rather as a research firsthand. In these pages I am harshly
critical of much of our medical science establishment. I do not
laud dedicated researchers, nor do I paint a rosy picture of soon-to-be-discovered
cancer cures. Although I firmly believe that research can and will
produce practical and effective treatments for cancer, such advances
will never come from the present research paradigm. Instead , I
present a story of narrow-mindedness, vaulting ambition, and self-interest
among those to whom we have given our trust - cancer scientists.
It is an account of a scientific and medical scandal of the highest
order. But most of all, it is a tale of poor science and the pressures
that induce cancer scientists to do unsound work. *