Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cancer Cure Catch 22

Two medical researchers meet in the university lab.  Jim is excited. John is interested.

Jim: "I've found the cure for cancer! All we need are some clinical studies proving it works and the Nobel Prize in Medicine is ours."

John: "Hey! I'm pumped. ... But wait a minute, how can we do a clinical study that tests a cancer cure?"

Jim: "Easy! We enlist some cancer patients, treat them with the cure protocol.  After their cancer is cured, we publish the results. It's that simple.  Of course we'll need to register the study, comply with appropriate bureaucratic and human rights legislation, but the University knows how to get that done."

John looks confused: "But how do we prove the patients are 'cured'?"

"It's obvious!" Jim retorts: "Their cancer is gone. They are cured!"

John: "Actually, it's not obvious.  How can we prove the cancer is gone.  Maybe it's just in remission. Maybe it's not really a cure?"

Jim is getting excited, "That's the great part. Today's cancer cures try to 'kill' the cancer.  Of course you can never be certain you've killed all of the cancer cells. And they don't address the cause of the cancer at all. So of course it returns even if you do kill all of the cancer cells."

John: "And our cure is different?"

Jim: "You bet it's different.  We don't try to kill the cancer cells, we health the body. When the body is healthy, it naturally removes the cancer cells, and no more can grow."

John objects: "Health isn't a verb.  It's a noun."

Jim is still excited, "It's going to be a verb.  We're going to win the Nobel Prize!"

John: "But how can we prove the cancer is cured?"

Jim slows down, and asks, "What are you getting at?"

John: "There is no scientific or medical protocol to prove a cancer has been cured."


John continues: "Cured is not defined for cancer. There is no definition of a cancer cure. It's impossible to define a cancer cure study, because we can't prove a cancer has been cured."

Jim asks, "What about all of those people searching for cure? What about all those people running for the cure, shaving their head for the cure, raising money for the cure?"

John, quietly, "Haven't you noticed, many of the cancer fundraising websites have quietly removed the word 'cure' from their main pages. There are some organizations still raising funds for a cure - but their parent organizations have stopped using the word cure. 'Run for the Cure' has become 'Run for the Cause', but they don't mean the 'cause of cancer, they mean the fundraising cause."

"You can't be serious," Jim replies with incredulity.

John goes on, "Look at the American Cancer Society.  Their website says they are 'Dedicated to helping persons who face cancer. Supports research, patient services, early detection, treatment and education.' Their mission is "The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service" They don't use the word 'cure' in their mission. If you search their site for the word cure, you will see a claim that they have spent 4 billion dollars since 1946 to find cures, but other pages reference a 4 billion dollar expenditure on research.  If you check their 'areas of research', you will find biology, cause, treatment, prevention, early detection, diagnosis, etc... but no mention of 'cure'. There are some references to finding a cure, but most of them are more than 5 years old. Cure is not defined, so there is no point in searching for one..."

Jim: "Well, if there is no scientific definition of a cancer cure, we'll have to make one."

John: "But, You can't just make up your own rules about a cancer cure, and then design an experiment to test the rules you made up..."

Jim: "Surely, if we treat people who have cancer, and their cancer goes away, and doesn't come back - they are cured. That might take sometime, but we can eventually prove it is a cure."

"That won't work.  It happens every day.", John says smugly.

Jim: "What happens every day?"

John: "Some people claim have cured their cancer. Someone claims their cancer is cured. But, there is no test for a cure. There is no way to prove the cancer is cured. Because there is no test for a cure, these people, these 'cure claims', are just 'anecdotal evidence'."

Jim: "Anecdotal evidence?"

John: "Yes, a claim, without proof.  Anecdotal evidence."

Jim: "That's not really anecdotal evidence.  Anecdotal evidence is when someone tells me they were cured, and then I tell you.  I'm telling you an anecdote. When they tell me, it's their truth, it's not an anecdote."

John: "Well... the medical systems call it anecdotal evidence... You can't really argue with all those PhDs."

Jim: "But what if one of them is actually a cure?"

John: "We can't tell. There is no way to recognize a cure.  Cure is not defined for cancer. There is no test for a cancer cure.  No medical test. No scientific test.  No legal test.  None."

Jim: "Hmmm.  So we're caught?"

John: "Yes, it's the classic logic problem. A catch 22.  You can't find a cure for cancer, because cancer cure is not defined."

Jim: "and of course we can't define a cancer cure, until we find a cure for cancer?"

John: "You've got it.  Catch 22.  No bell prize for you. But if we work on it long enough, we might get tenure. That's a goal we can achieve."

to your health, tracy