War on Cancer Was “Profoundly Misconceived”

(p. 179) Following the testing of nearly half a million drugs, the number of useful anticancer agents remains disappointingly small. Expressions of discontent with the methodology of research and of research and the appalling paucity of results were, over the years, largely restricted to the professional literature. However, in 2001 they broke through to the popular media. In an impassioned article in the New Yorker magazine entitled “The Thirty Years’ War: Have We Been Fighting Cancer the Wrong Way?” Jerome Groopman, a respected clinical oncologist and cancer researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, fired a devastating broadside. “The war on cancer,” he wrote, “turned out to be profoundly misconceived–both in its rhetoric and in its execution. The high expectations of the early seventies seem almost willfully na├»ve.” Regarding many of the three-phased clinical trials, with their toxic effects, he marveled at “how little scientific basis there was and how much sensationalism surrounded them.” Groopman concluded that hope for progress resided in the “uncertainty inherent in scientific discovery.”

Source:
Meyers, Morton A. Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007.
(Note: italics in original.)

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