Cancer Can Be Beaten.
It was a Canadian Cancer Society poster I had in my bedroom when I was in high school. The slogan stuck with me when I moved to New York to attend graduate school at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in the mid-eighties. Despite its emphatic promise, cancer at that time seemed like a foe that was anything but beatable. Radiation, chemotherapy, surgery. Doctors smoking in part of the hospital cafeteria, cancer patients with one arm attached to an IV drip and the other holding a cigarette outside the main entrance on York Avenue. It was all grim.
The instructors at SKI (and then at Cornell University Medical College across the street) were first-rate, researchers like Ora Rosen, Ken Marians, and Bill Holloman. It has been scientists like them, conducting basic research into mechanisms of DNA replication, repair, and cell biology, who have led the way to the advances in cancer treatments that we’re seeing today. The equation is simple: pure science gives rise to applied science.
It is in part thanks to advances in molecular biology, immunology, cell biology, and pharmaceutical manufacturing, that my colleague, James Hale, and I could write this article for the December 2015 issue of Pharmaceutical Engineering about one man whose tumours disappeared after treatment with the breakthrough biologic Keytruda. Jimmy Carter is another patient who used Keytruda and whose cancer is in remission.
Perhaps one day soon we will be able to say, at least for some forms of cancer, that it can be beaten.