One of the most depressing ideas I hear is that the cure for cancer is known, but is a closely guarded secret. It is terrible to think of millions of people with cancer or think of just one relative dying from this disease. To add that someone is hiding the answer causes fear, anger and confusion. Yet, if you run an Internet search for “secret cancer cures” you get 4.8 million hits. Could there be truth to this abhorrent rumor?
This idea as commonly stated has three parts. It goes something like:
1) Mankind has spent 100 years and tens of billions of dollars on cancer research, so they must have found the cure for cancer
2) They are keeping it secret
3) They make lots of money on unneeded research and useless treatments.
It is worth a moment to consider these points.
Why have we not found a cure? We did not understand that cancer is a disease caused by damage to growth genes until 1980. We did not identify most of those genes until the last 20 years. We only started to understand how these genes cause cancer in the last 10. There are hundreds of these damaged genes that mix in hundreds of different ways. 200 types of cancer and genes mixing in hundreds of ways means cancer is hundreds or even thousands of slightly different diseases.
However, that is not the problem. The real issue is we have no treatments at all to mend genes. Thus, present treatments can cure some cancers, but not all. Chemotherapy poisons cancer cells, hoping the cancer cells will die before normal cells. Radiation cuts the chromosomes of cancers cells into pieces. We have a couple of new treatments that block the function of damaged genes. None of these therapies restore DNA damage. Just as we have no treatments to heal genetic problems such as Down’s Syndrome, Sickle Cell Anemia or many birth defects, we cannot yet repair cancerous cells.
Could they be keeping the cure for cancer secret? Who is “they”? Doctors? Millions of physicians all over the world from different societies and cultures collude to hide the formula? We cannot even agree to join the AMA!
Pharmaceutical companies? They spend all their time trying to attack and compete with each other, whether it is in the marketplace or in the courts. They make money by finding medicines that work. Are they really going to walk away from the biggest blockbuster of all?
The governments of the world? Is it likely that the same people that cannot prevent war, avoid famine, share resources and understand each other’s religions have agreed to secretly conceal the cure for cancer? Moreover, in case you missed it, our government in Washington is not the “get along with each other and keep monstrous secrets” type.
Do not forget that whomever was keeping the cure a secret would have to watch their friends and relatives die from the disease. They would need to accept their own deaths from the dread disease, to protect knowledge of the cure.
Finally, are there bigger dollars in manufacturing the cure or in prolonging the suffering? The person or company that finds the cure for cancer will know no limit to what they can charge. $5,000 pill? No problem. Will other manufacturers lose money since their old treatments will be useless? Of course. Will the company that has the cure and is now worth more then Apple, Exxon and GE combined, care? Seems very doubtful.
It is a cruel and malicious hoax to taunt cancer patients that the cure is already available. Often what connects this kind of gibberish is selling snake oil and magic dust. The logic to explain how such a cure works is usually pseudoscience. They pray on fear, ignorance and trust. There is a special place in Hades for such charlatans.
There will not be one, but many cures. The remedy will be the ability to heal damaged genes and prevent injury in the first place. No organization will keep it secret…the person that finds it will have their name in marble next to Salk, Einstein and Mozart. Will the people that produce the cure be rich? Beyond all our wildest dreams.
Sadly, the universal cure is not yet here. Nonetheless, there is real hope, for we now understand the disease and know the type of therapies we need to create.