Cancer’s ‘what if?’ game

Some days it’s hard not to play the “what if?” game in the news. What if one day soon, a cure for cancer is discovered?

It’s a game being played in the “News Cut Cubicle” because today comes news that a new vaccine has shown some promise when given to women who had breast or ovarian cancer. The vaccine cause the breast cancer’s progress to stall for almost three months. The ovarian cancer’s spread was stopped for two months.

In one woman — a young woman whose cancer had her liver, and to her lymph nodes in her chest — is now cancer free and has been for four years.

  • Bob Moffitt

    I hope I live to see the day when cancer is cured.

    I lost a sister, a grandmother and several other close relatives to that damn disease. A favorite aunt is fighting pancriatic cancer now.

    That’s why I joined the American Cancer Sociiety as a volunteer. Eventually, I became chair of the board of directors for the East Metro unit, which served the entire state, except for Hennepin County.

    Now, I’m fighting against lung cancer. It would be wonderful to find a cure for that, as well as the other lung diseases we deal with.

  • John O.

    My own family has virtually no history with cancer, so I count that as a blessing. All my prayers and thoughts go to Bob Moffitt and his family as they fight this horrible disease.

    In the past, eradication of diseases (think polio) were found through the development of vaccines. I cannot speak to the decision-making that went into the purchase and distribution of vaccines on a wide-scale, nor can I speak to which company (or organization) may have “profited” from their work in developing and manufacturing sufficient quantities.

    If a cancer “vaccine” can be found that will eradicate this disease, I have to wonder about the possible economic and ethical considerations that go with it.

    My father is a retired pharmacist who worked in a hospital environment in the latter part of his career. He mixed his share of chemotherapy solutions for patients and shook his head at the cost of the ingredients. We have known several families that have had to try and deal with the enormous expenses associated with treating cancer.

    Given the current state of escalating medical costs, one has to wonder what the monetary cost of receiving a dose of such a vaccine would be? A hypothetical vaccine priced (again, hypothetically) at $2,000/dose is far less than in-patient treatment in an oncology unit, or several outpatient treatments. The company that developed and/or manufactured this hypothetical vaccine would stand to profit immensely for itself and its shareholders.

    How much would a person be willing to pay for a “magic bullet?” What would a person or family be willing to sacrifice to get their own dose? I don’t have an answer for this and I won’t pretend I do. But the way our society seems to be wired nowadays makes me wonder what would happen once this achievement is reached.

  • Jon

    John O,

    Polio has not been eradicated… Yet. according to wikipedia there were 1294 cases of it in 2010 world wide.

    And I hope it never comes to what was done to eradicate diseases in the past ever again. I can’t find the article now, but there were times when people were pulled from their homes in the middle of the night to be given vaccines… when children were basically kidnapped from their families to be brought to clinics to be vaccinated.

    Sure we can look back at the elimination of small pox as a wonderful success story, but the methods used to get to that point were a bit … brutal … at times.

    it’s wonderful to live in a world where we are only some clinical trials and FDA approvals away from curing the common cold, flu, and 90% of all other viral issues (DRACO Vaccine look it up if you have time) and actually have in production vaccines against certain types of cancers (HPV, which is appearently functional at stopping other cancers too), and more of them on the way. at the same time it’s terrifying to live in a world where politicians argue in favor of not curing cancer, or where people would choose to opt out of being vaccinated against such diseases.

  • John O.

    @Jon: I’m not going to second-guess a parent’s choice on the whole issue of whether to vaccinate or not.

    If these vaccines come to fruition, the potential health care cost savings could be enormous for both the public and private sector.