Dear friends of the Single Cause Single Cure Foundation
We believe cancer research is way off track.
To be sure, hope and optimism go hand and hand with cancer advocacy and research, and rightfully so. These are the emotions that motivate us. We’ve all heard news of a possible breakthrough, or of someone beating cancer against the odds. It’s human nature to stay hopeful and be optimistic in the face of despair. But reality portrays a different image of cancer – one much less hopeful. The statistics are a cruel reminder of the fact that we are far from winning the ‘war against cancer’ declared by President Nixon in 1971. The truth is folks, the cancer death rates today, are the same as they were in 1950. Cancer will likely soon pass heart disease as America’s leading cause of death. Many of you probably think of cancer as a disease that just affects the elderly. It’s not. Cancer is the number one killer of children and all the way up to people in their thirties.
Undeniably, meaningful progress in treating cancer has remained terribly elusive. Lifestyle changes, like a reduction in smoking rates, and earlier diagnosis, account for the vast majority of progress. New chemotherapeutic drugs account for almost nothing in terms of survival rates. In fact, one of the main therapies used to treat cancer today – radiation, has been round for 100 years. It’s hard to think of another technology that has been so stagnant.
The next generation of ‘targeted’ therapies designed to singularly target the genetic defects of the cancer cell, leaving normal cells alone — the ones you hear about on the news, or read about in the paper, the ones we are told have so much promise –have been an abysmal failure. Of the 700 targeted therapies developed to date, only one, Gleevec, has made a difference in people’s lives.
There are too many examples of oncological drugs with marginal to no benefit, like bevacizumab (Avastin, Genentech) approved for metastatic breast cancer (provides progression-free survival improvement but no increase in overall survival; estimated total cost of therapy, $90,816). No increase in overall survival for a price tag of $90,816.
This is unacceptable. There is something clearly wrong here. Critically, we think the profound lack of progress is because cancer research has for too long chased a single scientific paradigm that is increasingly showing flaws.
Our scientific convictions are what make us different from the numerous other cancer foundations. Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same think over and over again and expecting different results.” Sadly, this seems to apply to cancer research today. Rather than spending money researching genetic defects with no clinical relevance, over and over again, we think there is a better way.
We are not alone. Recent evidence implicating the importance of metabolism in cancer has not escaped the attention of some prominent researchers. DNA co-discoverer, and NCI board member, James Watson, is equally frustrated with the lack of progress, and said this recently, “More attention should be paid on the metabolism of cancer……The cancer cell should be treated as a ‘sick man’ and not a ‘superman’ by attacking cancer cells where they are metabolically vulnerable.”
Without delving too far into the science, there are two facts you should know:
- No single mutation or any combination of mutations is reliably diagnostic of any type of cancer – On the whole, the cancer mutations thought to cause cancer, seem to be almost random.
- Every cancer cell has a defective metabolism, regardless of tissue type and regardless of the mutations they possess. This is where cancer is vulnerable. This is why the cancer cell is a ‘sick man’.
Preliminary research using therapies based on exploiting the metabolic vulnerability of cancer cells has shown remarkable promise – and it has only just begun.
We feel we are posed on the precipice of a new era of progress in the understanding of cancer, and therapeutic progress. The growing body of evidence is too compelling to be ignored. We have certainly chased-down and mapped-out countless dead ends in the effort to cure cancer — but it is time to recognize and admits past failures, and move forward where the evidence dictates. Once the focus of research shifts to metabolism of the cancer cell, meaningful progress may be realized where there has been none.
Our singular mission, our unrelenting goal, is to move forward with fresh vision — removing all preconceived notions and entrenched bias — and finally change the course of this insidious disease that affects us all.
Travis M. Christofferson, MS
Founder and President