Marissa Murphy by wuyunyi


									                                                                                     Marissa Murphy
                                                                                      Davis, Period 3
                                      A Cure for Cancer
       In 1998, the National Cancer Institute predicted that by 2003, cancer would have passed

heart disease as the nation's number one killer (Bettelheim). Although that did not happen,

cancer is a close second behind heart disease, making it the second leading cause of death in the

U.S. Our nations‟ ability to treat and cure most cancers is not increasing, as is the number of

cancer related incidences and deaths. Cancer patient advocates and survivors are pressing the

federal government to make cancer the nation's number one public-health priority (Bettelheim).

Organizations like the NCI [National Cancer Institute] and ACS [American Cancer Society] are

doing their part to help combat cancer and make it a top priority. In 1998, “NCI officials

reported that the drug tamoxifen was found in a study of high-risk women to delay the risk of

developing breast cancer by 45 percent… In August 1998, an advisory committee of the FDA

[Food and Drug Administration] recommended approving tamoxifen to cut women's risk of

developing the disease” (Bettelheim). In October 1998, the FDA approved tamoxifen for

reducing the incidence of breast cancer in women at high risk for developing the disease. Cancer

breakthroughs and developments like this are great, but rare. In order for cancer incidences and

deaths to go down, something‟s gotta give, and something has to change. Unfortunately, the

nation‟s tight budget is a factor for how these efforts to cure cancer play out. In the effort to find

a cure for cancer, cancer establishments are focusing more on diagnosis, treatment, and research

rather than prevention, and insurance companies have been forced to cover clinical trials, but

ultimately, the advancements that have been, and will continue to be made, in stem cell research

is the most effective way to come closer to finding a cure for cancer, because it offers the best

chance for a medical breakthrough and should be the focus of funding.

       It is simply not realistic to try to prevent cancer. Efforts to do so will make little progress

because “virtually any cell in a person‟s body can become cancerous” in a world where „you

can‟t step outside your house without inhaling fumes‟” (Massari 17; Rubinfeld). Unlike the

hands on approach of research, diagnosis, and treatment, prevention is “avoiding or minimizing

risk factors in order to reduce the likelihood of getting cancer” (Massari 24). Although

attempting to prevent cancer is a good step to take in the battle against cancer, the cancer

establishments know that their efforts will be put forth without results. Due to the budget, they

would rather spend time and money on research for diagnosis and treatment they know will be

effective, than try to prevent a disease that for the most part is unable to be prevented. For

instance, there has been little pressure on industry to reduce or discontinue the manufacture, use,

and disposal of carcinogenic chemicals and to then replace them with a safer alternative

(Bettelheim). Taking this basic step could begin to greatly lessen exposure to industrial

carcinogens, and reduce the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer contracted from

the carcinogenic material, yet it is unrealistic. The laws that would be passed would be either

ineffective or ignored. Without funding to enforce the laws, they will not be obeyed, and will

have been a waste of the time and money used to pass it. Even if businesses are not

environmentally conscious when it comes to the use and disposing of carcinogenic material,

there are many little ways people can try to prevent cancer in their own body, such as, “using

sunscreen... [giving up] smoking, sun-bathing, or eating and drinking certain kinds of food,”

(Massari 24). To an extent, they will be helping themselves, but will still be unable to resist the

outside influence of the carcinogenic surroundings they live in. As a way to quicken the finding

of a cure for cancer and not waste money, “the priorities of the cancer establishment, the NCI

and ACS, remain narrowly fixated on… diagnosis and treatment and on basic molecular

research, with relative indifference to… prevention” (Bettelheim). This focused emphasis has

produced significant medical advances. Some cancers are now curable, treatments are less

debilitating, and detection technologies are more sophisticated (Advances in Cancer Research).

However, many of the treatments that are discovered from this research are not able to cure

cancer, but are able to put it in remission. Although there is no doubt that research needs to be

funded so cancer can be put in remission, it takes funding away from stem cell research that has

the potential to cure it. It is agreed that time and money is better spent on research, treatment,

and diagnosis, rather than prevention, because it is more important to make efforts to cure the

cancer we are dealing with now than to make ill efforts to prevent it in the future, but we can not

allow this research to take away funding from stem cells.

        Requiring insurers and health-maintenance organizations to cover potentially life-saving

procedures, even if the treatment is new and unproven, is both a help, and not a help, at getting

closer to a cure for cancer. In 1998, a legislative proposal was talked about that “would force

health insurers to cover patients in clinical trials” (Bettelheim). In a clinical trial, treatments are

first tested on laboratory animals, and once proven to be safe, researchers need to learn how it

will affect people. A treatment has to pass the clinical trial stage before it can be offered to

patients by physicians as a proven treatment for cancer (Long 79). Back in 1998, researchers

complained they generally had difficulty getting people to participate in studies on new cancer

treatments because insurers refused to pay the medical costs associated with the therapy

(Bettelheim). A lot of valuable research can be gained from clinical trials. Without the trials, no

new treatments can be approved and given to patients. It was puzzling to many health

professionals why insurers would “deny coverage for promising drugs while health plans must

pay for hospital stays and testing if cancer patients seek FDA-approved treatments” (Bettelheim).

On the other hand, there is a down side to insurers covering clinical trials. As Robert C. Young,

President of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania puts it, “For a woman with

advanced breast cancer… it is easy to rationalize an off-trial treatment as a last hope, regardless

of how radical, expensive, or unproven it may be. The problem is that we learn nothing from the

experience. The information we do gain is fragmented, random and largely inaccessible”

(Advances in Cancer Research). In 2000, however, the Clinton administration took the concern

of clinical trials into their own hands. “President Clinton signed a bill that forces insurance

companies to cover clinical trials” (Rubinfeld). It was up to the government to decide whether it

was more important to potentially allow for the increased number of saved lives now, or to save

the researched information and keep it so it can be used in the future to hopefully come closer to

curing the disease. When the Clinton administration signed that bill, they made it clear that the

priority should be on learning what we can about cancer and treating it now while consequently

gaining unvaluable information for the future, not building up valuable information now and

waiting to use it in the future. Although from a medical standpoint that choice might not have

been best, the goal was to get more participants, which it succeeded in doing (Rubinfeld).

However, with the tight budget, funding more clinical trials, due to the increase in participants,

that might give useless or faulty information is frivolous and takes funding away from other,

more useful, programs like stem cells. Clinical trials are needed to approve new treatments, but

only to an extent. Treatments were being approved just fine before trials were insured. Forcing

insurance companies to cover the clinical trials makes them appear more as an option to many

more people. The extra trials being done costs extra money that there is a limited amount of.

Potentially, stem cell research could be receiving more funding if these extra trials were not

being conducted.

       As time moves forward, it is inevitable that more developments will be made, and new

treatments, ultimately leading to a cure for cancer, will be found due to the research currently

being done with stem cells. Stem cells are “un-programmed” cells in the human body that can

become bone, muscle, cartilage, and/or any other specialized types of cells. Stem cells can be

taken from human embryos, umbilical cords, and from adult tissue. Unlike adult stem cells,

however, embryonic and fetal stem cells “can be used to form any of the more than 220 cell

types in the human body” (Clemmitt). The issue of stem-cell research “is often described as a

moral dilemma… [of] the rights of the unborn versus the needs of people suffering from diseases

that embryonic stem cells might cure” (Kinsley). Conservatives say “morality forbids destroying

embryos, regardless of the cells' treatment-producing potential” (Clemmitt). ESC [embryonic

stem cell]-research supporters argue “the cells' life-saving potential outweighs qualms over

destruction of IVF [in vitro fertilization] embryos” and that “stem cells used in medical research

generally come from fertility clinics, which produce more embryos than they can use”

(Clemmitt; Kinsley). “You gotta support it; that‟s where the answers are gunna come from”

(Rubinfeld). In November 2004, “California voters agreed to a $3-billion state investment in

ESC research over 10 years” (Clemmitt). In 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the

Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, with both party‟s support. On July 20, 2006, the day after

President Bush vetoed the federal funding expansion, California Governor Arnold

Schwarzenegger (R) took $150 million from state general funds and added it to the ESC pot.

Other states like New Jersey, Wisconsin, New York, and Illinois are also increasing their ESC

research funds (Clemmitt). Contrary to conservative beliefs and wishes, stem cell research is

thriving not only in the U.S., but abroad also. Not only are countries like Japan, Israel, Australia,

Canada, several other European nations, Singapore, Taiwan, China and South Korea quickly

jumping into “the game” of stem cell research, but the European Union voted to allow EU funds

to be used for ESC research (Clemmitt). However, these funds have the potential to be even

larger than they are already. Money tends to be given to the conventional ways to treat cancer,

like research for diagnosis and treatment and clinical trials, more freely than it is given to new

and experimental ways, like stem cells. Currently, the FDA “has approved nine treatments

developed using adult stem cells” (Clemmitt). These treatments offer more than a chance at

remission; they offer a chance at living a life free of cancer, which is the kind of medical

breakthrough scientists have been looking and hoping for all their life. Moreover, stem cell

research needs to be given more funding, even if it means cutting back on the other areas that are

receiving funding. Without increased funding, stem cell research will not be able to thrive at the

rate it has the potential to do. Stem cell research is a relatively new method and idea for treating

cancer. With the discoveries, developments, and treatments already made in a time while it is

still young, stems cells are the best bet medicine has to finding a cure for cancer.

       In hopes to find a cure for cancer, and because of the tight budget, cancer establishments

are focusing less on unrealistic prevention and more on diagnosis, treatment, and research;

clinical trials are covered by insurance to help patients now, but not necessarily in the long-run,

and is taking up extra funding even though it might not be as beneficial to finding a cure for

cancer as stem cells. Stem cells have the potential to change the face of medicine as we know it,

and that is where the funding should be focused. Conservatives will say that stem cell research

takes away, and even kills lives. Supports will say that stem cell research gives hope and saves

lives. In the words of Michael Kinsley, “The vast majority of people who oppose stem-cell

research haven't thought it through.” No matter what your beliefs, stem cell research presents a

chance for opportunity for those who are suffering from diseases, like cancer, and provides a

realistic approach and hope for a cure to come. This hope is now more realistic than it has been

over the past 8 years. Unlike the current President, our nation‟s President-Elect, Barack Obama,

supports relaxing federal restrictions on stem cell research, and plans to “use executive powers to

reverse his predecessor's policies on stem cell research” (Booth). Hopefully, in the years to

come, reversed policies and relaxed restrictions on stem cell research will open the doors for

more treatments to be developed. Each day research is being done using stem cells, is one day

closer we are to finding a cure for cancer.

                                       Works Cited
Bettelheim, Adriel. "Cancer Treatments." CQ Researcher 8.34 (1998): 785-808. CQ Researcher
       Online. CQ Press. San Ramon Valley High School Library, Danville, CA. 28 Nov. 2008

Booth, Jenny. "Barack Obama 'to reverse Bush policy on stem cell research and oil drilling'."
       Times Online 10 Nov 2008 17 Dec 2008

Clemmitt, Marcia. "Stem Cell Research." CQ Researcher 16.30 (2006): 697-720. CQ Researcher
     Online. CQ Press. San Ramon Valley High School Library, Danville, CA. 28 Nov. 2008

Kinsley, Michael. "What Pro-Lifers Are Missing in the Stem-Cell Debate." Slate Magazine 07
       July 2006 15 Dec 2008

Long, Wendy. Coping with Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers. New York: The Rosen
      Publishing Group, Inc., 1999.

Massari, Francesca. Everything You Need to Know About Cancer. New York: The Rosen
      Publishing Group, Inc., 2000.

Researcher, CQ. "Advances in Cancer Research." CQ Researcher 5.32 (1995): 753-776. CQ
       Researcher Online. CQ Press. San Ramon Valley High School Library, Danville, CA. 27
       Nov. 2008

Rubinfeld, Steve. Personal Interview. 2 December 2008.


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