Monthly Archives: October 2009

Where’s The News?

An article in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and a companion news story on the front page of the New York Times has created a firestorm of media interest.


The problem I have with both of the articles is: where’s the news?


Let me cut to the chase, in no small part because I am travelling today and have limited time to write this before and between flights: The American Cancer Society is not working on any stealth project to change commentary on our website to emphasize the shortcomings and risks of screening. 


If we are, I would know about it, and I haven’t heard anything about such a plan.  We don’t have to.  You see, we already discuss these issues right there in plain view, including on this blog.


Second, the American Cancer Society has long recognized that screening for breast cancer with mammograms is not perfect. 


Mammography misses lesions and mammography diagnoses lesions that would otherwise not cause harm to a patient.  But when it comes to reducing deaths from breast cancer, we do believe that the evidence shows that mammography and … Continue reading →

“Gee Whiz” Cancer Surgery May Not Be Best Surgery

I have a confession to make: I am not a big fan of “gee whiz” medical technology.  At least not until it is proven to really make a difference in the care we provide our patients, or the outcomes of their treatments. 


A study in yesterday’s Journal of the American Medical Association comparing the side effects and outcomes of prostate cancer surgery using the robot to more traditional surgery reinforces that notion. 


Using the robot to treat prostate cancer surgically may be better in some respects, but not better in others.  And maybe not better enough for you to listen to all of the advertising hype about the robot, and forego treatment from a urologic surgeon who in fact may be more skilled at the operation and not use the robot.


The study was reasonably straight forward.  The researchers looked at patient information they obtained from a highly respected national cancer database called SEER and matched those men diagnosed and treated surgically for prostate cancer with another set of data obtained from Medicare fee-for service Part B billing records.


Once they matched the men in both sets of records, they looked … Continue reading →

Another Nobel Prize Winner: And Now There Are 44

And then there were 44…


No sooner had I completed and posted my blog on Tuesday about the Nobel Prize awarded to a scientist whose research had been supported by the American Cancer Society than the Nobel Prize committee made an additional award in the field of Chemistry to another Society grantee.


The scientist who received the award was Dr. Thomas Steitz from Yale University.  The American Cancer Society has been a supporter of Dr. Steitz’ work for many years, having provided two multi-year grants between 1983 and 1997 totaling more than $1 million.


Dr. Steitz’ Nobel Prize raises the number of Nobel Prize awardees that have received research grant support during the course of their careers to 44.  As I mentioned in my blog earlier this week, no voluntary organization has had such a record of backing this number of Nobel Prize winners.  These are the best in the world, and are scientists who have truly changed the courses of our lives.


The Society extends its heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Steitz.  We are honored to have had a role in supporting his work which led to this singular achievement.

 Continue reading →

The Nobel Prize, Bold Ideas, and Research Funding

Yesterday’s announcement that three American scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine serves as a reminder of how important research is in moving forward our progress in diagnosing and treating cancer. 


In addition, one of the awardees, Dr. Jack Szostak, was supported in the past with a research grant from the American Cancer Society.  That brings to 43 the number of researchers that the American Cancer Society has supported at some time in their careers who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, a truly stunning accomplishment that has not been matched by any other voluntary health organization.  (We have also provided grants to other researchers who have worked in the laboratories of all three scientists who received the award.)


Many of these investigators have received awards from the Society at a very early time in their professional careers, when funding is difficult to obtain.  Clearly, we are doing something right when it comes to recognizing those young scientists who have the bold new ideas and who go on to produce some of the most significant research in the world that changes science and changes lives.


There is a story … Continue reading →