With cancer survivor Lance Armstrong winning his seventh Tour de France, and
walks, runs and other highly visible fund-raising opportunities -- often
overflowing with survivors and their families -- taking place almost
ubiquitously across the map, it certainly seems that doctors are finally
winning, or at least making some significant strides -- in the war against
The word "cancer" still strikes a chord of fear in most people, but
the truth is that today many cancers including breast, colon and prostate may
no longer be the death sentences that they once were. Others like melanoma and
pancreatic cancer, however, are still proving somewhat vexing and
insurmountable. But ultimately, we are turning a corner: survival statistics
are up for many cancers, smoking is down, and some of the best minds in the
world are trying to crack the cancer codes. Advances Against Colon
Today, Armstrong is seen as an anomaly, but that may not always be the case.
"Lance Armstrong is such an inspirational story that cancer is not only not
a death sentence, but he can say, 'I beat it and I am doing something about' it
by setting up a foundation and speaking out," says Thomas Glynn, PhD, the
director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in
Washington, D.C. "I think as survival rates continue to rise, we will see
people like him who shine and not only survive disease and actually do well
Judah Folkman, MD, the Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery and professor
of cell biology at Harvard Medical School and director of the vascular biology
program at Children's Hospital, both in Boston, agrees: "Lance Armstrong is
really amazing, and the fact that we can do it once means you can maybe do it
again," he says.
Here's how we are doing so far.
Multifront War Waged
Make no mistake, "we are winning this war, but progress has been slower
than we would have expected in 1971 when war [on cancer] was declared by
President Richard Nixon," says Glynn.
Calling it a "multifront" war, Glynn tells WebMD that "there is
no such thing as one cure for cancer because we are dealing with hundreds of
different diseases all gathered under the [category] cancer."
When President Nixon declared war, the "assumption was that to beat
cancer, a switch needed to be turned off and we just needed to find that
switch," he says. "What we are finding out is that there are multiple
switches and different things that turn them on and off."