Monday, August 3, 2009

Forty Years' War - Lack of Study Volunteers Hobbles Cancer Fight

Not long ago, at a meeting of an advisory group established by
Congress to monitor the war on cancer, participants were asked how to
speed progress.

"Everyone was talking about expanding the cancer work force and
getting people to stop smoking," said Dr. Scott Ramsey, a cancer
researcher and health economist, who was participating in that
January 2008 meeting of the President's Cancer Panel. "Lots of
murmurs of approval."
Then it was his turn.

The biggest barrier, in his opinion, was that almost no adult cancer
patients — just 3 percent — participate in studies of cancer
treatments, mostly new drugs or drug regimens.

"To me it was obvious," Dr. Ramsey said. "We can't improve survival
unless we test new treatments against established ones."

The room fell silent.

"It was one of those embarrassing moments," said Dr. Ramsey, an
associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.
He had brought up the subject he said no one wanted to touch.

Forty years after President Richard M. Nixon declared war on cancer,
death rates have barely changed. "Why aren't we getting cures?" Dr.
Ramsey said. "This is one of the biggest reasons."

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