The Long War on Cancer
That expectation was raised in part by the PR campaign, complete with ads suggesting we could cure cancer by the bicentennial, that successfully pushed President Nixon to support what came to be called his “War on Cancer.”
Since then, the United States government has spent over 100 billion dollars on research and scientists have learned a great deal about how cancer works. While some drugs do extend life, we’ve also seen numerous new drugs and treatments, like Interferon, bone marrow transplants for breast cancer or Interleukin-2 heralded as “breakthroughs,” only to disappoint or even harm patients over time.
There has been long-term success treating a few types of cancer, including lymphomas and leukemias as well as testicular cancer. Early detection and screening, while controversial for some cancers, has also prevented many deaths from cervical and colorectal cancer. But after all these years, all this money, and all of these drugs, most cancers still kill once they metastacize, and over half a million Americans die from the disease each year. Despite the fact that treatments get the most press coverage, the greatest reductions in cancer mortality rates can be credited to lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking. But as we become more obese, and more sedentary, that progress may prove elusive, too.
More Like This
LSD: From 60s Counterculture to Doctor's Office
In the 1960s, mind-altering drugs like LSD helped fuel the counter-culture. Today, psychedelics are turning on a new generation – of scientists.
Genetic Screening: Controlling Heredity
With every new advance in prenatal genetic screening, the ability to prevent suffering has also sparked difficult questions about what should count as “a disease” versus “a difference,” and whether we’re in danger of wiping out certain segments of the population. This story was produced in collaboration with PBS, American Experience.
The Boy in the Bubble
In the early 1970s, an unusual boy captivated the nation. Now, decades later, his story continues to unfold in remarkable ways.
Could You Patent the Sun?
Decades after Dr. Jonas Salk opposed patenting the polio vaccine, the pharmaceutical industry has changed. What does that mean for the development of innovative drugs and for people whose lives depend on them?