The Cold Hard Facts About the US Cancer Program: Misguided and Ineffective

Townsend Letter, the Examiner of Alternative Medicine, is a magazine published in Washington, USA. It is written by researchers, health practitioners and patients. Its editorial staff is headed by Jonathan Collin, a medical doctor. The aim of this magazine is to provide a forum for discussion on the pros and cons of alternative medicine.

In October 2010 and August /September 2011 issues of The Townsend Letter are two interesting articles, The US Cancer Program and Specific Types of Cancer, 1975–2007: A Failure (Part 1 and 2) by Anthony D. Apostolides, PhD, and Ipatia K. Apostolides, BA.

Dr. Anthony D. Apostolides is a researcher and teacher of health-care economics. He received a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Oxford, UK, and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Ipatia K. Apostolides has more than 15 years of experience in the cancer field (Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati). She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Case Western Reserve University.

You can read their papers by clicking this link:  Part 2:  http://www.townsendletter.com/Oct2010/cancerprogram1010.html

and Part 1:  http://www.townsendletter.com/AugSept2011/uscancer0811.html#.Tmh2rd1WYAs.email

  1. The authors examined cancer statistics over a span of 32 years, from 1975 to 2007. Studying data over a long-term period like this provides a more accurate and reliable evaluation. The authors wrote:  “Public announcements are typically made by government agencies and presented in the news media, by using cancer statistics that cover only a short period – for example, 2 to 3 years. In such cases, the public can easily be misled, since a short time period conceals the more comprehensive, long-term picture of the disease.”
  2. The data they used for their studies are from SEER-9 (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results). Cancer statistics review 1975–2007 [online document]. Available at: www.seer.cancer.gov/statistics.
  3. With regard to assessing the treatment … the criteria used were the mortality rate and the numbers of Americans who died from a cancer.
  • A constant or increasing mortality rate of a cancer over time, along with increased number of deaths, indicates a failure … in the treatment of that cancer.
  • If the mortality rate declines over time but the number of deaths increases, then the program for the treatment side is shown to be a failure.
  • If the mortality rate declines over time and the number of deaths decline, this indicates success in the treatment of a cancer.

Here are some of the cold, hard facts about cancer today.

  1. Lifetime Probability of Americans Getting Cancer
  • During 1975 to 1977 – probably of male was 33%, i.e., 1 in 3 males would get cancer.
  • During 1990 to 1992, the probably for male climbed to a shocking 46% to 50%, almost 1 out of 2.
  • During 1975 to 1977 – probably of a woman was 34%.
  • During 1990 to 1992, the probably for a woman climbed to 42%, very close to 1 out of 2.

          2. Mortality or Death due to Cancer

  • From 1975 to 2000 – more Americans per 100,000 died from cancer than in 1975.
  • More died from cancer in 2006 than in 1975.
  • The number of Americans who died of cancer in the 1990s and 2000s translates into 63 deaths every hour of the day, or 1 every minute of each hour.

           3.       The US Cancer Program: Misguided and Ineffective

Cancer death or mortality relates to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of treatments. An increasing mortality rate shows lack of effectiveness of the cancer treatment.

  • Death rate increased from 1975to 2000. It did not decrease nor did it even stay the same as in 1975.
  • From 2000 to 2006 death rate was virtually zero decrease.
  • For every year following 1975, the number of Americans dying from cancer rose annually until 2000. If the cancer treatment program of the US had been successful, there would have been declines in the cancer mortality rate after 1975 instead of increases. This indicates an inefficiency in the treatment of cancer patients.
  • From 2000 to 2006 death rate may well have been affected by the increasing use of alternative or integrative treatments for cancer. People have increasingly become discouraged with and weary of traditional cancer treatments (chemotherapy, etc.), and more would have chosen to use either an integrative approach (combining an alternative approach with conventional treatment) or solely alternative treatments.

The authors wrote:

  • The American people have been paying too high a price – with their lives – for a misguided and ineffective cancer program.
  • In a proper framework of providing treatment, cancer patients would be given the choice of approach to pursue – based on currently available information. They could then choose and accept their preferred method of treatment. There could be at least three choices: (1) conventional approaches (surgery, etc.); (2) integrative approaches; and (3) alternative approaches.
  • It is a sad and incredible fact that presently Americans do not have such a freedom of choice in cancer treatment.
  • The NCI (National Cancer Institute) should be radically revamped, to include much more work on alternative treatments for cancer. This is unlikely to happen with the current structure of the NCI. There are many vested interests there in maintaining the status quo, and a substantial change in its program would indicate acceptance of the fact that its treatment programs did not work.
  •  It seems unthinkable that the US, which professes to champion freedom around the world, does not offer that same freedom to its people in their choice of cancer treatment. That is the mark of a totalitarian regime.
  • Consequently, the last hope of a change in cancer prevention and treatment remains on the shoulders of the American people. They need to be informed and convinced of the need for change. Then, they need to organize and act, at the political level, to transform the cancer program.

The authors, Dr Anthony  and Ipatia Apostolides are not alone in calling for a radical change in the way we handle cancer today. Over the past years, many other brave souls have spoken up but unfortunately nothing had changed or are going to change!

Other Experts Echoed A Similar Message

  1. In the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (8 May 1986; 314:1226-1232) Harvard professors, John Bailar III and Elaine Smith, wrote an article, Progress against cancer? The authors assessed the overall progress against cancer during the years 1950 to 1982 and concluded that there is “no evidence that some 35 years of intense and growing efforts to improve the treatment of cancer have had much overall effect on the most fundamental measure of clinical outcome—death… We are losing the war against cancer”.
  2. In Fortune Magazine, 22 March 2004, Clifton Leaf, the Executive Editor of the magazine and also a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, wrote an article, Why We’re Losing The War On Cancer [And How To Win It] [Avastin, Erbitux, Gleevec … The new wonder drugs might make you think we’re finally beating this dreaded scourge. We’re not. Here’s how to turn the fight around.] http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/03/22/365076/index.htm The author asked, “Why have we made so little progress in the War on Cancer? The question may come as a shock to anyone … we are far from winning the war. So far away, in fact, that it looks like losing… Just count the bodies on the battlefield. In 2004, cancer will claim some 563,700 of your family, friends, co-workers, and countrymen. More Americans will die of cancer in the next 14 months than have perished in every war the nation has ever fought … combined. Even as research and treatment efforts have intensified over the past three decades and funding has soared dramatically, the annual death toll has risen 73%”.
  3. Dr. Guy Faguet received his M.D. degree in Bogota, Colombia. He pursued postgraduate studies in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas, and in Hematology/Oncology at Ohio State University, leading to an academic career at the Medical College of Georgia. He has published more than 140 peer-reviewed articles. In his book, The War on Cancer – an anatomy of failure and a blueprint for the future, Dr. Faquet wrote, “The message of this book is that, contrary to recurrent announcements of breakthroughs in the War on Cancer designated to influence policy makers and impress the public, little progress has been made in the treatment of cancer since the enactment of the National Cancer Act of 1971.  An objective analysis of cancer chemotherapy outcomes over the last three decades reveals that, despite vast human and financial expenditures, the cell-killing paradigm has failed to achieve its objective … and the conquest of cancer remains a distant and elusive goal … the three crucial measures of progress in the War on Cancer, cure rates, prolongation of survival, and quality of life, remain stagnant despite enactment of the National Cancer Act of 1971″.
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