The gap between rhetoric and reality has been a feature of cancerfighting efforts at least since President Nixon famously declared “war on cancer” in 1971. Initiatives are announced with great fanfare designed to appeal to the American public, only to be followed by disappointment when those overhyped goals are not met, and then to be capped by a soured legacy that underestimates what actually was accomplished.
That was the case with the War on Cancer in the 1970s and the Human Genome Project a decade later. Now the nation is about to embark on the Moonshot initiative.
This time, we should not only hope that history doesn’t repeat itself, we should insist that it doesn’t.
There are many reasons why we should change the way we approach cancer research and evaluate potential new drugs. In this issue of OncologyLive, we are pleased to offer articles that examine some of those reasons.
Maurie Markman, our physician editor, weighs in on the misleading language that is being used in the launch of the Moonshot program in his column, “Can the Cancer Moonshot Program Move Beyond the Rhetoric?” Markman talks about building an infrastructure that would enable anticancer therapies to be evaluated more effectively and efficiently.
In our cover story, “Killing Cancer: What Vincent DeVita Wants You to Know,” we present an interview with one of the most eminent oncology research leaders of the 20th century. DeVita, who served in leadership positions at the National Cancer Institute and at two of the nation’s top cancer centers during the past 50 years, has penned an insider’s view of the field.
His book, "The Death of Cancer," is a must-read for anyone who cares about oncology care. DeVita paints a picture of doctors at times so pessimistic about the possibility of helping patients with cancer that they give up before even trying to do so, of a research establishment so hidebound that the field’s true pioneers face withering attacks before their ideas are accepted, and of a regulatory environment that has grown so extensive that it smothers and usurps the practice of oncology medicine.
Yet despite these frustrations, DeVita remains optimistic. Not only are we winning the battle against cancer, we can do even better, he asserts.
These are voices that we should heed. The insights that we gather from oncology researchers have long made us optimistic about the future of cancer treatment, but we fervently agree that we have to start doing things differently in order to achieve the outcomes we want.