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Cancer Cure Progress Has Been "Painfully Incremental"



(p. A15) Hopes were high in 1971 when President Richard M. Nixon called for a War on Cancer. The disease was as pernicious as it was mysterious, claiming more American lives each year in the 1960s than had perished in combat during all of World War II. Still, it wasn't hard to imagine medical experts coming up with a cure. After all, hadn't the country just put a man on the moon?

Almost 50 years later, the war rages on. Decades of hard work and grand promises have yielded more disappointments than breakthroughs. Reliable treatments remain elusive, and researchers still aren't sure why some people get the disease and others don't, why some die while others survive. In "Cancerland: A Medical Memoir," David Scadden offers a personal account of the inspiring but often exasperating hunt for solutions to the profound problem of cancer.


. . .


. . . moving science forward "to create better clinical approaches," Dr. Scadden writes, "is an almost painfully incremental affair." This puts physicians in the awkward position of having to explain the slow pace of research to dying patients, many of whom hope that a miraculous new drug or therapy awaits them if they can just hold on for another year or two. This is not a crazy idea. Dr. Scadden's own mother, who died of colon cancer in 1985, might have survived if certain studies were completed five years sooner. But most clinical trials come to nothing, particularly in cancer. Many patients are stuck with the same interventions that have been around for decades: surgery, radiation and toxic chemotherapy. The miserable side effects can sometimes make life only marginally better than death.



For the full review, see:

Emily Bobrow. "BOOKSHELF; Reason to Hope." The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 1, 2018, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; 'Cancerland' Review: Reason to Hope.")


The book under review, is:

Scadden, David, and Michael D'Antonio. Cancerland: A Medical Memoir. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2018.






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