Limited Gains in Reducing Deaths
The war on cancer goes on and on, yet total victory remains far out of sight. It is now 37 years since the federal government, by establishing the National Cancer Institute, committed itself to combat against this most-feared of all killer diseases. Three years ago Congress called for an all-out crusade against cancer, authorizing an intensified effort to carry over the following three years. Now, in 1974, Congress has extended that special program for another three years and has authorized the Cancer Institute to broaden its activities still further and to spend more money than it ever has in the past.
The gains from this 37-year effort have been considerable. Not only have scientists acquired much new knowledge about the behavior of various forms of cancer, but some of this new knowledge is already applicable directly to the treatment or prevention of the disease. Many persons are now living who otherwise would have succumbed to cancer long ago.
But problems not foreseen by early researchers have emerged. The more that's learned, the more complex the nature of cancer is realized to be. And while the attack on cancer advances on one front in that the survival rate for certain forms of cancer is markedly improving, the anti-cancer forces are retreating on another front in that the incidence of cancer is rising and has been rising for some time. Meanwhile, the scientific community—and the legislators whose decisions have great impact on the quality and direction of scientific inquiry—are divided over the best strategy to use in this apparently unending war.