My personal views on the current administration in the White House are no secret to anyone. That said, they did something recently that actually makes sense, however, I will wait to see how the implementation comes off before making a final judgement.
Announced at the most recent “State of the Union” address was a “Cancer Moonshot”. The gist of the idea is to get done in 5 years what would normally require 10 years (in research, overall Cancer progress, etc…). The Vice President was appointed (apparently without his foreknowledge) to lead this effort. My wife Cheryl, having been diagnosed with Cancer last year, has been attending the local Cancer Support Community (CSC) where she became aware of this effort, and was invited to the “Kickoff” this past week.
We both attended the kickoff meeting, where VP Biden’s remarks were “Live streamed” simultaneously to groups all over the country. He claims he has spent much time over this past year learning about Cancer and the research that is ongoing and the hurdles that need to be overcome in order to speed up results. It was all very showy, with much posturing by the VP for the camera, and a rehash of all his past “Accomplishments”. I won’t even go into those, they are so dismal and so far in the past (in terms of where this administration has gone) that I won’t bore you with those details.
Simply put, he got down to brass tacks and announced that it would be an “Offense” bordering on the unethical to not publish Cancer Drug Trial information in a timely fashion and that the result would be loss of Government funding for your research. That was aimed straight at researchers and implies that research is the primary emphasis of his “Moonshot”. He announced during the speech that a researcher named Cooley, around the turn of the 20th C. had discovered that Cancer was somehow connected to the Immune System, and that stimulating that system with injections of dead bacteria seemed to provoke the system to respond to the Cancer and resulted in longer life for the patient.
That was the most significant takeaway I had from the whole entire discussion! I asked the doctors leading our “Discussion” following the live stream why more money was not being spent on discovering this relationship – explicitly – and why we were not trying to put the drug companies out of business? To my surprise, when I said this, about 1/2 the people in the room applauded! I had no idea that so many felt as I do. At that point I apologized and informed them (after those doctors immediately tried to quash my comment and go in another direction) that I had no disingenuous intentions, and that I was there simply to support my wife who HAS Cancer and that I realize we must continue to treat those who are affected, and deal with the “Emotional / Neural” issues resulting from the disease.
One of the most serious issues I found actually was the fact that the CSC was formed explicitly to deal with the emotional aspects of the disease, which, while significant, seem to ignore the entire spiritual aspects of the disease. No, I did not go off on that tangent in the discussion, I felt that if the CSC were chartered with dealing with people’s emotions then we can leave it at that. Those so inclined can talk to their Pastors, get prayer and so forth. But, the spiritual aspects of this disease are significant in my book!
Anyhow, the doctors and CSC staff were very supportive of the whole “Moonshot” effort, while I may have been skeptical (somewhat) and slightly skeptical about their “Direction” I believe still that it is a worthwhile thing to do. VP Biden said that one of the things he does best is to “Get things done” by removing roadblocks. The sheer amount of red tape involved must represent several thousand pages of regulations and legalese that would require genius level to navigate.
I just kept reminding myself – as well as others who I met at this discussion – that we must have the endgame for Cancer in sight if we wish to know whether our short-term focus is accurate. I am and have been an Engineer for over 30 years and I believe firmly that we must constantly readjust our course when we are faced with new information or challenges. This “Feedback” process provides periodic ways to not just check progress but determine overall trajectory accuracy. Obviously, that’s the point of trying to measure progress in any venture.
But, I said, the end goal for Cancer is to ELIMINATE it and prevent it! We do not want it killing folks at all (at some point). We all heard of the “Success” of the Gardasil Vaccine and the fact that it has now been through several iterations. What is not known, and this is true of most vaccines, is whether side-effects will lead to different approaches in the future. Not all Cancers are caused by viruses, and not all are treatable by the same mechanism. While techniques used today may be looked on as “Stone age medicine” at some point in the near (or distant) future, we have to use what we have today to fight, and the doctors at the discussion were all raving about the machines and medicines we have right now that are so much improved over the ones they had just 5-10 years ago.
Be that as it may, I will restate my point – that we should be working to ELIMINATE Cancer – and not simply to treat it. This is true of all disease in my opinion, and that should be the direction for all medicine and research. If we are simply making new pills and coming up with new ways to treat this or that, then we are failing our primary mission in this field. I didn’t hear much coming out of VP Biden’s mouth about that angle on Cancer (or Medicine, or Medical Research), only how he was going to “Coerce” researchers into making 10 years of progress in 5 years. Wow. A single breakthrough could result in us leaping 20 years ahead, it’s just that you cannot schedule breakthroughs as he seems to have implied.