June 9th, 2008
06:01 PM ET

Ted Kennedy's cancer challenge

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/09/art.tedkennedyboat.jpg caption="Sen. Kennedy is helped into a boat as he heads out sailing a week after his surgery."]

Maureen Miller
AC 360° Writer

Senator Ted Kennedy is back home on Cape Cod. Today he left Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, a week after surgery on his brain tumor. Doctors say the next step for Kennedy is chemotherapy and radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

360° writers do a lot reading on the stories of the day. We call it reading-in. (I know… such a fancy name. Ha!) We read CNN & AP wires, the e-mails we get from crews in the field, the newspapers, the magazines, the blogs, etc. We read a lot.

And, while reading-in, I came across something interesting about Kennedy...

Did you know just days before Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor he held a Senate hearing on cancer? Elizabeth Edwards, Lance Armstrong and others were on hand to share their battles against the disease. The title of the gathering on Capitol Hill was "Cancer: Challenges & Opportunities in the 21st Century.

The two key words: Challenges & Opportunities.

Consider these facts from the American Cancer Society:

  • Nearly 1.5 million Americans will develop cancer this year.
  • 565,650 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year, more than 1,500 people a day.
  • In the U.S., cancer accounts for 1 of every 4 deaths

Thanks to advancements over the years, it’s not a death sentence for everyone.

At the recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the group’s president, Dr. Nancy Davidson, pointed out there are more than 10 million cancer survivors in the United States. That’s up from 3 million in the 1970s.

But the group is worried the progress could be reversed by a lack of research money. Last week, the ASCO laid out its cash concerns in a USA Today ad. The headline read: “Today, there are many ways to fight cancer. Cutting funding for research is not one of them.”

Less cash means less research. Possible cures aren’t even being tested. That scares me. I’ve lost several family members and friends to cancer, including my father. I’ve also seen family members and friends survive cancer. For that I’m so grateful. Survival comes through research. I want everyone to have a survivor story. But without money, that may not happen.

The ASCO warns, adjusted for inflation, spending on cancer research is down $500 million since 2003. You read that right: $500 million dollars. It’s calling on Congress to increase funding for cancer research. The same Congress where some members were moved to tears when they learned of Kennedy’s brain cancer.

Do you think the cancer fight needs more money? And, what you like to see happen in the war on cancer?

Filed under: 360° Radar • Maureen Miller • Medical News • Sen. Ted Kennedy
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. EJ (USA)

    Well said Bren

    I am not down or depressed and I am not bitter. Not at all.

    You are a much stronger person than I am. I am all those things and I don't even have cancer.

    June 9, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  2. Susan

    In 1971, President Nixon declared a war on cancer when he spoke these words in his State of the Union Address: "I will also ask for an appropriation of an extra $100 million to launch an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer, and I will ask later for whatever additional funds can effectively be used. The time has come in America when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease. Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal. America has long been the wealthiest nation in the world. Now it is time we became the healthiest nation in the world."

    Nixon carried through on this promise when he signed the National Cancer Act in December 1971. At that time, cancer was the 2nd leading cause of death for Americans and Americans wanted a cure to this disease. Unfortunately, cancer is still the 2nd leading cuase of death for Americans. In fact, among some groups, cancer is the leading cause of death.

    "Are we winning the war?"

    Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question. The good news is that since Nixon declared the "war on cancer", there have been incredible advances in cancer detection, prevention, and treatment. Since the mid 1990s, the cancer death rate has been decreasing steadily. Today, people live with cancer longer than they ever had before. A diagnosis of cancer (of any form) once was truly considered to be a death sentence. Today, nearly half of all cancer patients can expect to live for five or more years after the diagnosis of cancer. That's five more years family members are together for holidays and family celebrations, such as graduations, weddings and births. How do you put a price tag on those milestone events we all want our family members to take part in?

    Yes, it is unfrotunate that the cancer gurus are still not able to pinpoint a "cause" for cancer. Research now supports the belief that cancer can be triggered by many factors, such as our genetics, diet and perhaps, even our jobs. We also know that the chances of developing cancer are significantly reduced if we choose to live a healthy lifestyle, not smoke and avoid certain foods.

    Don't despair – while a "cure" for cancer has not yet been found, many beleive that the research breakthroughs in cancer detection and therapy are not far away. With these, our doctors can effectively control the disease. Since cancer will likely touch everyone (personally or by association) in his/her lifetime, I don't think it's a battle we should give up anytime soon.

    The fact that Sentator Kennedy was diagnosed with this dreadful disease, should not be the driving force to continue funding research. We should do it because it's the right thing to do.

    June 9, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  3. Bren from Atlanta

    I have seizures, hydrocephalus and simmering myeloma, the pre-cancerous state for multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells. Its like living with Al Quaeda cells in your body. My bad cell count is on the rise so it does not look good. There will be no pink ribbons for me. There will be no fund raisers or concerts or commercials for my kind of cancer. I am also not a child. I do not have a "popular" version of cancer. Until we recognize that all cancer is evil and deserves a voice, the battle will be ultimately lost. I am not down or depressed and I am not bitter. Not at all. I am a voice and I am spreading the good news that there is hope if we work together for the cause and the cure of ALL cancer. Thanks!

    June 9, 2008 at 10:43 pm |
  4. EJ (USA)

    Ok I see your point Larry. If they did share more and it was a truly united effort I'm sure we would be a couple decades ahead.

    All those things you mentioned contribute. However, I think that greed & glory is many times what pushes certain researchers. In a twisted way that may be a big part of the reason we have come so far (and cancer research has indeed come very far).

    So maybe it's that this research has come so far because of (and not in spite of) so much greed and aims for glory. That's one way to look at it – although that sounds a bit strange.

    June 9, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  5. Larry

    Who says they don’t ? How many different medical & oncology journals are published all over the world?

    All in various languages too. Be as well to put all the researchers in one place and share the $$ that is funding them.

    Do pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in funding research for a cancer cure or for a treatment?

    Many are just replicating the research going on in labs in other countries for 'glory' & Nobel prizes. Jonas Salk gave no credit to the many researchers that helped him get the Nobel prize, not a thank you to any of them.

    June 9, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  6. EJ (USA)

    But this research is not just about cures. Isn't it also about making life for cancer patients easier? Helping to make their quality of life better? Helping them live longer? Don't cancer patients today live a lot longer than they did decades ago? (yes)

    Why can’t all researchers share their resources?

    Who says they don't ? How many different medical & oncology journals are published all over the world?

    June 9, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    My mother in law died of cancer – its hard watching someone die like that and I don't begrudge cancer research a dime if they can find a cure for all the different cancers that a person can get especially the children. Maybe one day we can say we have eradicated cancer like we did some of the other diseases that people 100 years ago died of routinely – TB, whooping cough, diphtheria , typhoid, etc. St. Jude's in Memphis does wonderful work with children who have cancer – its a great place a a wonderful cause to donate to.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 9, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  8. jim

    I don't think more money will help. It sounds strange that a cure hasn't been found with all the Trillions of dollars donated to the American Cancer Society. Only the executives have benefited. The diagnosis for Ted Kennedy is unfortunate. However he still fares better than Mary Jo

    June 9, 2008 at 8:30 pm |
  9. Pat Sharkey

    "The war on cancer"

    Finally, a war I can get behind.

    June 9, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  10. Larry

    Surely we're not the only country in the world doing research in this area. Why can't all researchers share their resources?

    June 9, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  11. EJ (USA)

    Did you know just days before Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor he held a Senate hearing on cancer?

    Yes I did know that, and I wish Senator Kennedy & his friends & family all the best.

    I'm all for continuing the same level of cancer research. With the progress that has been made thus far. I wouldn't know why it would be cut now.

    June 9, 2008 at 6:08 pm |