Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Are researchers, discoveries being cloistered?

Biden urges end to 'cancer politics' but more teamwork among docs, scientists, donors

Vice President Joseph Biden

It's a presidential election year so, naturally, there's lots of disturbing politics (no matter where you're positioned on the bell curve).

Perhaps none more upsetting, however, than the politics of the cancer world that, according to Vice President Joseph Biden, is the greatest obstacle to curing the disease.

According to a recent Associated Press story by Josh Lederman, Biden — who lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer last May — is now asking Americans to demand that scientists collaborate to overcome "cancer politics" and, thereby, find a cure.

His rallying cry came a month after he announced he wouldn't run for president.

Biden delivered his plea in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose Moon Shots program is aimed at finding an end to the massive killer.

The story says the vice president's found, after meeting with almost 200 oncologists, scientists and benefactors in the cancer community, an excess of "competition, territorialism and resistance to information-sharing."

The result, they apparently indicated to him, is that "researchers and their discoveries [have been left] cloistered in their own corners."

Biden plans not only to seek more funding but to encourage increased data-sharing.

It's been half a century since President Nixon declared war on cancer. Clearly, the war has not been won (despite survival rates having been improved, the American Cancer Society has predicted, according to the AP story, "1.7 million new cancer cases this year and nearly 600,000 deaths").

In a follow-up to his initial announcement, Biden softened his personal "moon shot" from facilitating a cure to a more realistic goal of doubling the rate of progress (meaning researchers would accomplish in five years what normally would take 10).

It's been unclear, however, exactly what "cure" Biden seeks — considering that cancer is hardly monolithic.

To learn more about that, and how researchers keep changing their minds and findings, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed especially at male caregivers.

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