THE GREAT DARKNESS:
TIME, INC. ON CANCER
From The Cancer Chronicles #21
© May 1994 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
T.S. Eliot thought that April was the cruelest time of year--and he hadn't even heard about "cancer month." Come April, millions of volunteers fan out across America to help raise $400 million for the American Cancer Society. On cue, the media goes wild. Newsstands become simply too painful to look at, gushing forth streams of unwarranted optimism.
In this regard, nobody outdoes Time, a long-time mainstay of Cancer, Inc. After all, it was Time's founder, Henry Luce, who virtually created the NCI back in 1937 with a Fortune story, "Cancer: The Great Darkness." And hard as we try, who can forget Fortune's "Cancer Breakthrough" story (on IL-2) in 1985? But this year (4/25/94) Time really outdid itself with an 8-page cover story, the word CANCER emblazoned in two-inch-high red letters on a field of black. In breathless prose (cancer is "a stealthy pirate slipping from a cove"), Time claims that, past failures to the contrary, "the war against cancer has reached a turning point." Scientists have "pried open the black box" revealing malignancy's "innermost secrets." One academic enthuses, "This is the most exciting time imaginable."
Another chimes in, "The route to therapy seems surprisingly clear." What's all the shouting about? Oncogenes, telomeres, thrombospondin, mutant proteins, and "that ubiquitous gene, p53." Almost as an aside, Time concedes that the real-life value of these substances "has yet to be proved." But there¹s a "seismic shift in strategy," a search for drugs "that can be tolerated over a lifetime." But why stop there--"even metastatic cancer may eventually be brought to heel."
The most telling quote is from one poor guy receiving treatment at NCI for his pancreatic cancer. "I haven't felt significant improvement yet," he confesses. "But the doctors are tremendously excited."
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