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  • A (Breast Cancer) Cure at Last? (Jewish Exponent)

    Published: 11/13/2012

    President John F. Kennedy pledged in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It took less than nine years to accomplish. In 1971, President Richard Nixon promised there would be a cure for cancer in 10 years. It’s been 41 — and researchers are just starting to figure out what’s taking so long.

    “We got to the moon in nine years because we had 400 years of physics behind us, from Galileo on,” says Charles Saxe, director of the Cancer Cell Biology and Metastasis program at the American Cancer Society.

    “When Richard Nixon said we’ll cure cancer, we had nowhere near that kind of knowledge base.”

    Scientists feeling the push from Nixon’s National Cancer Act, and armed with the federal funding it brought, stepped up their lab work and organized extensive clinical trials in an attempt to figure out exactly what causes cancer, and to find a cure. What they found was they didn’t have a clue.
    “When we started to dig in, we realized it was more complicated than we even believed,” Saxe says. “We didn’t have the tools to understand how cancer happens. Things we thought we had simple answers for, we tested — and it didn’t work. A lot of humility came into play.”

    And a lot of attention has gone on to focus on breast cancer. In the last 41 years, the American Cancer Society — the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research — has given out over $450 million in grants for breast cancer research alone. That money hasn’t gone to waste; the five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients has gone from around 45 percent to 90 percent.

    But there’s still no cure....

    ... “There is a range of different types of breast cancers, with different molecular signatures. Part of the problem is that, historically, we’ve grouped them all together,” says Lawrence Solin, chair of radiation oncology at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia. “The good news is we’re beginning to learn how to treat these different types, rather than thinking of breast cancer as a single disease. This approach is going to accelerate progress tremendously.”

    Solin was the lead researcher for the Oncotype DX test, a “molecular tool” that lets doctors predict the risk of recurrence in patients with ductal carcinoma in situ, the most common type of early, or non-invasive, breast cancer.

    (Read the whole story by Rachel Vigoda on the Jewish Exponent website here.)

  • Communications Team