Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
Oct. 11--IF YOU TUNED into a National Football League game over the weekend, you had to note the incongruous combination of big, tough men and the color pink. Pink cleats, pink sideline caps, pink penalty flags. Even if you were channel-surfing and don't know the difference between first down and a false start, you knew in an instant what the pink was all about.
Pink has become so associated with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer awareness-raising and fund-raising organization, that the first glimpse of the hot pink hue, particularly in October, brings to mind the battle against breast cancer. It must be one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever, for a cause that merits all the attention it can get.
It's just one example of how cancer, in all its forms, has been targeted for extinction by advocacy groups as well as researchers across the United States and around the world. The fruitful result is that a diagnosis of cancer is no longer the assumed death sentence that it used to be. Thanks to the emergence of new drugs, the discovery of cancer-causing genes, improved diet and other prevention techniques, cancer may remain a major killer--second only to heart disease overall--but it's on the run like never before. Though many of the encouraging weapons in the war on cancer have emerged over the past 20 years, the fight began long before that.
Maybe it began in earnest with the groundbreaking 1964 report by then-U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry, which linked smoking to cancer. But the roots of the battle run still deeper than that. It was 1913 when the American Cancer Society was founded, working ever since, as its website says, to "create a world with less cancer and more birthdays." As it celebrates its 100th anniversary, the society gets credit for building itself as the nation's largest non-government source of cancer research funding.
According to Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the society's chief medical officer, it took those first 80 years to realize the successes of the past 20. Interviewed in a McClatchy Washington Bureau report, Dr. Brawley estimates that in the past 20 years, 1 million American cancer deaths have been averted, thanks to the combination of research and awareness, and over that same period the risk of death from cancer has decreased by 20 percent.
Perhaps appropriate for October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced its approval of a new drug dedicated to treating breast cancer prior to surgery. The drug Perjeta is for women diagnosed with a high risk of having their breast cancer spread to other parts of the body.
Researchers expect advancements to accelerate from now on with each passing decade. Though an actual cure may remain elusive, Dr. Brawley predicts that cancer will evolve into a chronic disease, like diabetes, that with treatment people are able to live with.
But American Cancer Society CEO Dr. John R. Seffrin wants to take it a step further. He says he's ready to put his organization out of business. "We're determined to make this cancer's last century," he said.
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