The case for making cancer a campaign issue

Imagine if there were cells of terrorists inside the United States that had the ability to strike without warning, kill mothers and children, drive families into bankruptcy, cripple productivity, and put the populace in a constant state of fear. Controlling and eradicating these terrorist cells would be all the presidential candidates would be discussing. But what about if instead of terrorist cells, those cells were inside of our bodies in the form of cancers?

When President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act in 1971, the fed increased its funding for cancer research. That infrastructure has essentially remained unchanged, with subsequent presidents merely adding to or decreasing the amount of government funding allocated for this study.

But no president has taken the time or interest to determine whether the funding policies, approval processes, rules, and regulations that govern the so-called war against cancer meet Americans’ current needs.

We are fighting the cancer war with strategies that were implemented in 1971, and we have not used the knowledge we have gained to adjust or reform our strategies, resulting in significant wasted resources and inefficiencies. Much of our recent progress in cancer research has been made despite government intervention instead of because of government efforts.

We are at an exciting time in the fight against cancer. Developments underway would add at least 2 significant tools to the toolbox we use to approach cancers: early cancer detection in the form of blood tests; and immunotherapies, which have the potential to destroy cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells and tissue intact. These new technologies have the potential to be transformative, meaning that eventually they could lessen our reliance— or in some instances even replace— the hallmarks of cancer treatment used over the past 50 years: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

One thing scientists have learned over the past 45 years is the earlier that cancer is diagnosed, the better an individual’s chances are for survival. Among cancers diagnosed early— at stage 1 or stage 2— the five-year survival rate is generally between 90 percent and 100 percent. But for cancers diagnosed later— at stage 3 or stage 4— the five-year survival rate is typically between 20 percent and 30 percent. Despite these overwhelming statistics, too-little government funding is invested in developing early-detection technologies. For-profit companies have recognized the potential of early-detection technologies for cancer and have stepped in to fill the void.

The objective of is to make cancer a priority for the next U.S. president. Over the course of the next four-year presidential term, 2.4 million people— 1,644 people each day— will die from cancer related illnesses, 7 million additional people will be diagnosed with cancer, and the government will spend over $500 billion on cancer care. A thorough review of the government’s role in the fight against cancers is certainly worthy of the president’s attention, and is long overdue.

One way to make cancer a priority for our next president is to make cancer a campaign issue. The way to make cancer a campaign issue is to show the candidates that cancer is important to voters, which is the immediate goal of Our hope is that when one candidate recognizes the opportunity to attract voters with a comprehensive policy to address the ongoing national cancer healthcare crisis, the other candidates will follow.

Robert Berman is the President and CEO of ITUS Corporation (NASDAQ: ITUS) whose subsidiary company is developing Cchek™, a platform of blood tests for the early detection of cancers. He is also the co-founder of