Vice President Joe Biden’s recent commitment to lead a “moonshot” toward a cancer cure promises to deal a blow to the disease that has become the leading killer in the United States.
The initiative, kicked off last week, commits to bringing together a combination of therapies with “innovations in data and technology” to create treatment options that are ready for prime time—with the goal of making “a decade worth of advances in five years.”
Here at Provision, we couldn’t agree more. It’s something we work toward every day.
We believe the solution to a cancer cure is a combination of early detection along with both currently available and up-and-coming therapies that have the power to transform cancer treatment as we know it.
Here’s our view of a cancer-free future.
Ninety percent of cancer is treatable when detected early. If those at risk for a variety of cancers—particularly the big three: prostate, breast and lung—were screened appropriately, many of the cancer deaths we now mourn could be prevented.
For those who test positive for cancer, the healthcare system needs to, through research as well as financial support via insurance coverage, move toward treatments that kill the cancer but spare the patient and sustain quality of life.
Today, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in various measures and combinations are the typical recipe for cancer care. All three of these remedies carry their own risks, from that of infection and complications in surgery to the collateral damage of radiation to the harsh toll chemotherapy takes on the entire body. Truly, the cure can be worse than the disease.
Here’s our vision of the future:
First, conventional radiation and most surgery should be replaced by proton therapy. Proton therapy is a proven, FDA-approved treatment option for those diagnosed with localized cancer such as found in the prostate, breast or brain. This non-invasive treatment reduces the side effects caused by conventional radiation therapy and surgery. A growing number of proton therapy centers are making this world-class option available to patients across the globe. We support their research in developing the best treatment plans and clinically demonstrating proton therapy’s effectiveness.
Second, immunotherapy offers the promise of a future without chemotherapy. By using the body’s own disease-fighting system to eradicate cancer, it eliminates the toxic, debilitating side effects now experienced by chemo patients and better prevents spread of the disease. Research should be dedicated to bringing this unique treatment to everyday application for cancers that now require chemotherapy.
And serious, strategic investment should be made in cancer prevention by encouraging healthy lifestyle choice and reducing environmental risks.
As Biden has said, for too long research has been stuck in silos, focused on narrow investigative tracks and lacking a clear, comprehensive, thoughtful vision that could actually move the needle on cancer mortality. Treatment is too often dictated by the financial interest of the health care industry rather than public and personal health priorities. Patients are too often relegated into the role of bystanders rather than active participants in their care.
We rejoice in the government’s fresh approach to this growing crisis. We are encouraged by the vice president’s willingness to seek the best answers to a problem that has touched his life and ours. We believe the answer is within reach—and we want to be a part of the solution. As Provision’s own ice-skating, cancer-surviving spokesman Scott Hamilton so eloquently puts it: “We want to help turn cancer upside down!”