Pink ribbon skeptic

Who in their right mind cannot be a pink ribbon, or cancer research, skeptic? When you consider the billions that have been raised for this cause over the years, the duplication of research by various entities, and the continuation of similar protocols over decades, one must wonder where all this money is going; other than, of course, to support the lifestyle of the various people whose occupations are linked with this industry. Case in point: my partner died in 1994 of cancer and his treatment included a specific chemo cocktail that obviously was not successful. In 2006, a close friend also died of cancer, and had been given the SAME chemo cocktail. Twelve years later, still unsuccessful and still considered a ‘viable’ treatment. What happened to all the research that had taken place within those twelve years? I am a firm believer that if and when the time comes that a cancer cure is found, it will NOT emanate from any of the high cost labs or drug companies, but from some obscure place that has received no funding or monetary enhancement. Cancer research is a business that is self perpetuating. If a cure is found, what happens to all those people who have lived royally off this funding for so long? It is right to be skeptical.

Welcome to The Straight Dope Message Board, Inisfad. Let me provide the obligatory link to the column in question for you, so that others can get the background of your post.

Indeed, and what about all those doctors who are living high-on-the-hog when all their patients eventually die!!!11! Scientific medicine is clearly a scam.

Ah, so much misinformation, so little time.

First of all: The deaths you experienced in your life, while tragic, are not reliable indicators of whether the drug protocols are useful or not. We have no information about the cancers involved or the stages or confounding coexisting conditions or maybe even the oncologists involved were indeed incompetent. Generalizing to the entire field of medicine from these two individuals is silly.

Secondly, anyone looking for “the” cure for cancer is woefully misinformed. For approximately the millionth time: cancer is not one disease, and will not have “a” cure. “Cancer” is a catch-all term that describes any condition where cells of the body are reproducing in a way they normally wouldn’t. Some definitions divide cancer from a mere tumor by saying that cancer involves the reproducing cells escaping from where they started to another part of the body, but whether the unrestrained growth is local or spread around, it still will interfere with normal functions. Cancer can develop in almost any organ, and almost any cell type, and there are innumerable reasons for normally-innocent cells to start on the path to cancer. Expecting that any treatment will address the almost-infinite combinations of these that make up the category of cancers is naive at best.

Thirdly, there is no reason that a chemo cocktail that didn’t work for your partner wouldn’t be a treatment 12 years later. Calling it “unsuccessful” is only true in the limited case of one person. You and I have no idea how many times it had worked in the intervening 12 years. Given the time it takes for new therapies to be developed, tested, approved, and deployed, 12 years is a comparative eyeblink.

Lastly, you really think that anyone is “living royally” off this funding? You must be confusing cancer researchers with defense contractors or something. Most of the work in this field is done by poorly-paid postdocs and lab assistants. A postdoctoral research associate makes $36,435 - $48,199. A laboratory assistant does even worse at $24,423 - $33,891. The lab supervisor goes all the way up to $38,012 - $58,931. They’re really living high on the hog, aren’t they? What about the people at the top of the research payscale, though? Their “royal” salary is in the $56,932 - $93,969 range. Trust me, nobody goes into biochemical laboratory research with the expectation of getting rich.

Inisfad, my condolences on the loss of your partner and your friend.

I would note however that just because the chemo cocktail in question didn’t work in these two cases, it doesn’t mean it never worked for anyone. Of course there is no 100% effective treatment for cancer. But I would certainly hope that doctors wouldn’t still be using that treatment 12 years later unless it had shown at least a decent chance of working.

That said, we certainly still have a long way to go when it comes to developing reliably effective treatments for cancer. That said, I think the best way to achieve such treatments is through funding for cancer research. The fact that we haven’t cured cancer yet doesn’t mean spending money on research is a waste; it just means curing cancer is hard.

Let me put it this way: Funding research doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a cure. But not funding research pretty much guarantees you won’t find a cure.

Edited to add: paperbackwriter is of course right that the phrase “a cure for cancer” is inaccurate and misleading. I was taking some rhetorical liberties above.

I really don’t have a problem with the pink ribbon thing per se. But for cryin’ out loud, who do I write to about not printing a Sunday’s worth of comic strips entirely in shades of pink? Sunday funnies are meant to be full-color! That was just annoying.

Man, that would have annoyed the hell out of me if I still read any print comics. Online, color is free every day. :slight_smile:

They really did this? Wow. When?

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to print a Sunday’s worth of comic strips in which all the characters were drawn with breasts?

The first Sunday in October, many comic strips distributed by King Features were printed mostly or entirely in pink. The campaign was creatively called Comics Go Pink.

“Rex Morgan, M.D.” was, at the time, in the middle of a story line about prostate cancer :smack: (Since Rex works on Soap Opera Comic Time, of course, the strip is still in the middle of that story line as of this writing.)

As a specific example of relatively successful progress in cancer treatment, see “Medical Treatment of Advanced Testicular Cancer,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. From the introduction:

I’d bet not many oncologists are praying for a cancer cure. Kept a secret is what cancer cells live on…sugar! Not your fat nor your protein tissue. But we can’t say a thing because sugar is a major industry. So is dying from cancer, it seems.

If only people would stop eating sugar, there’d be no more cancer, right?

What the conspiracy theories are missing is this: setting aside the monstrosity of this conspiracy theory, while oncologists as a whole might profit from the continuation of cancer, an individual oncologist (or a corporation) that cures cancer will eclipse Madame Curie and Louis Pasteur in fame. Or at least equal them: they’ll be in the top ten of medical scientists of all time in terms of their place in history. There’s tremendous incentive to be the person who discovers and/or popularizes a cure for cancer. And if historical bragging rights aren’t enough, the person who sells this cure will be a bajillionaire.

Um - everything you eat gets turned into sugar. That is because this is what all cells live on.

Are oncologists all magically immune to cancer, themselves?

I think that fact that pink ribbons and walks give patients hope is enough for me. Hope is a very strong emotion which can cause you to over come things, think of it as a self made placebo effect.

Hell Montgomery Wards invented Rodolph the Red Nose reindeer. And how many of us and our kids know those stories and have had it bring cheer to our holidays? Just because something is marketed and corporate does not make it evil.

Cancer patients HAVE overcome all odds and survived terminal cancer. Did they get lucky? Was it from their hope or some sort of combination?

I don’t care how much has been put in on cancer research, I want to teleport to China right now! Again, regardless how much money we throw at that some things are still beyond our reach, money does not fix all the problems.

paperbackwriter[[Lastly, you really think that anyone is “living royally” off this funding? You must be confusing cancer researchers with defense contractors or something. Most of the work in this field is done by poorly-paid postdocs and lab assistants. A postdoctoral research associate makes $36,435 - $48,199. A laboratory assistant does even worse at $24,423 - $33,891. The lab supervisor goes all the way up to $38,012 - $58,931. They’re really living high on the hog, aren’t they? What about the people at the top of the research payscale, though? Their “royal” salary is in the $56,932 - $93,969 range. Trust me, nobody goes into biochemical laboratory research with the expectation of getting rich.]]

First of all, most clinical researchers get paid quite way more than what you describe, though not necessarily “high on the hog.” There are however some folks who do profit handsomely from some of the new treatments that come from medical research, and those are the top guys with the pharmaceutical companies. Check into some of those paychecks. (I am not suggesting here, btw, that there is a conspiracy to hide any “cures” for cancer)

With such profits coming in from innovative drugs, one might wonder why research funding would need to be raised by saving yogurt lids or running 10Ks. Such events can be helpful for those who want to memorialize loved ones or their own suffering. But certainly drug companies don’t need to raise money for their research in these ways.

But the real points are…
well, re-read the SD column for those.

Did you look at the links for each salary? Those are average salaries, for each position, so it is nonsensical to claim that “most” researchers get paid “quite way more” than those ranges. Unless, of course, there is some Lake Woebegon-style cancer research organization I’m not aware of where everybody gets paid above average salaries. Granted, those salaries are for biomedical research in general, but when my wife was in that field, the cancer researchers weren’t paid more than the heart disease researchers, so I think the point stands.

PBW, I am a clinical researcher at a university hospital in one of the lowest paying states in the US. My salary is higher than the ranges you cite. There are all kinds of positions and areas of clinical research. Most of my research is financed by the pharmaceutical industry, and they pay more still, because that’s where real profits can be made. You can go by your internet links, but I have worked in this field for years, so I believe I have a bit of a grasp of things. Meanwhile, I think the points made in the column are being completely missed here.

Massive profits are made when innovative treatments for common and/or serious diseases are released. The pharma co’s are motivated to develop and market such treatments. Why we still know so little about risks, precursors, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer - while continually being bombarded with “pink ribbon campaigns” - is still a mystery.

Carry on.

Correction!
(there is no edit option, sadly)
I said, “Most of my research is financed by the pharmaceutical industry”
I meant to say Almost none of my current research is financed by the pharma industry.

As the column states, the primary purpose of the campaigns was to raise awareness, which has been successful. Secondary purpose was to increase funding for research into cancer, which has also occurred.

The donating per tab collected plan may or may not have merit. The purpose isn’t so much for the actual dollars collected as to give the people a tangible way to participate, to expend some minimal amount of effort to signal their desire for cancer research and finding cures. It’s a fair question to ask if that is really doing much worthwhile, or if there might be other/better solutions.

Note that this method is a lot larger than cancer research. For a while there were internet sites you could visit and click a button once a day that would tally and give donations per click (I don’t know if any are currently active, but remember a couple that I visited for a while).

It’s also fair to ask what progress, if any, has been made in breast cancer research (or cancer research in general). Raising awareness may be useful in getting people to screen sooner and more often, which can help earlier detection and, therefore, make treatments more effective and less expensive and debilitating. But is greater awareness and increased donations actually leading to better treatments?