Imagine if there were cells of terrorists inside the United States that strike without warning, kill our mothers and children, drive families into bankruptcy, cripple our productivity, and put many of us in a constant state of fear? Controlling and eradicating the terrorist cells are all that the Presidential candidates would be talking about. How about if instead of terrorist cells, those cells were inside of our bodies in the form of cancers? Despite the constant barrage of political media coverage, the seemingly endless stream of candidate debates, and all of the postings, tweeting, chatting, blogging and twerking, none of our Presidential candidates are talking about what they will do about the national crisis and global epidemic that is cancer.
To put cancers in perspective, let’s take a quick look and a handful of the “hot button” issues that predominate the current political scene, and how they compare to or are impacted by cancers:
1. Gun Control: It is estimated that approximately 30,000 people in the U.S. will be killed by gun violence this year. In comparison, 600,000 people will die from cancer related illnesses.
2. Same sex marriage: Overall, 3.9 percent of Americans identify as LGBT. According to the American Cancer Society, 39.6 percent of Americans will get some type of cancer over their lifetimes.
3. Affordable Care Act: In 2016, subsidies of insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act will cost the government approximately $300 billion. In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the costs of cancer care in the U.S. were approximately $125 billion, the most of any category of diseases.
4. Wall Street: Mortgage backed securities and the implosion of the U.S. housing market in 2007 led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The ongoing cancer pandemic has the potential to overwhelm public health systems, bankrupt private health insurers, and impoverish patients, resulting in economic devastation that is multiple times the magnitude of the 2007 housing crisis.
5. Economy: When including the costs for treating cancers, the annual total global cost of cancers in 2010 was estimated to be $2.5 trillion, which represents approximately 4 percent of the world GDP.
The presidential candidates’ unwillingness to address the cancer epidemic is puzzling.
In 2015, the American Association for Cancer Research surveyed 1,000 registered voters regarding their views on cancer. Of those surveyed, 87 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Republicans indicated a general support for increased federally funded cancer research, with essentially half of the respondents “strongly favoring” a raise in federal cancer spending. Most surprisingly, 50 percent of those surveyed said they are more likely to vote for a Presidential candidate who supports “sustained increases in federal funding for cancer research over the next decade”.
It took me 10 minutes and 1 Google search to find the AACR report. Is it possible that the AACR report and these statistics have been missed or overlooked by the armies of researchers and pollsters working for the presidential candidates?
Cancer is complicated. It is comprised of over 150 different diseases, and each disease has multiple subtypes. Cancer cannot be addressed in a single sound byte, and any talk of finding a “cure” for cancers is rubbish, and nothing more than political rhetoric.
The good news is that we are on the verge of some significant breakthroughs in how we approach cancers, and with advances in early cancer detection technologies, and immunotherapies, we have the opportunity to significantly reduce cancer mortality rates in the U.S. within the next 5 to 10 years. To use a football analogy, we are in the “red zone” when it comes to cancers.
No less than 9 government agencies are currently involved in cancer research, including: The National Institutes of Health; The Department of Health and Human Services; The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; The Centers for Disease Control; The Food and Drug Administration; The Health Resources and Services Administration; The Department of Energy; and The Department of Defense.
Some have called for the appointment of a National Cancer Czar, much like we have had for AIDS, for the purpose of coordinating all of the government cancer related research and activities (by the way, approximately 1.6 million people worldwide are expected to die from AIDS related illnesses this year, compared to 8 million worldwide deaths from cancer related illnesses).
Other ideas, such as the sharing of cancer data among companies, and “fast tracking” new cancer diagnostics and treatments, are being discussed among industry leaders. Imagine if a presidential candidate “borrowed” some of those ideas, agreed to make controlling cancer the number one priority of their upcoming administration, came up with a comprehensive plan, and demonstrated the leadership skills to take us from the red zone, into end zone.
Becoming a one issue candidate would certainly make campaigning and those awful debates so much easier. Each time the candidate is asked a question about a birth certificate, emails on the wrong server, or building walls to keep out immigrants, the answer would be the same: “You know I am really not sure about that, but let me tell you how we are going to reduce cancer deaths during my presidency”. That candidate will likely be the next president of the United States.
Robert Berman is the president and CEO of ITUS Corporation the parent company of Anixa Diagnostics Corporation, which is developing a blood test for the early detection of cancers. For more information, please visit www.ITUScorp.com. He is co-founder of Cancer4Pres.org.