Did you ever donate or raise money for Cancer?
Did you ever wonder how the money was spent?
Canada spends at least half a billion dollars a year on cancer research, money that comes from a variety of sources, from tax dollars and the Cancer Lottery to fundraising walks and runs you may have participated in.
The sad news is that a mere 2% of all the money raised goes to prevention. That leaves us with the question; where did the rest of the money go?
The Canadian Cancer Research Alliance invested 254 million dollars in cancer research and this was combined with the other 250 million from our government and charities. About 13% of all the money ($34 million) goes to infrastructure and equipment. About 6% of the total spending ($16 million) goes to salaries. This does not include the graduate students and scientific researchers that are paid directly by their own universities. The rest is spent on research, survivorship, treatment, detection and finding the cause. This year 159,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and 72, 700 will die as a result of the disease. And yet, only 2% of all the money is spent on prevention.
The largest chunk, $115 million dollars is spent on research. This may sound very good but the sad news is the most of this money is wasted. If you are a graduate student doing research into different compounds that may stop the spread of cancer cells, your end product must be a substance that can be patented by a pharmaceutical company. In 2004, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that an off-the-shelf compound called 3-bromopyruvate could arrest the growth of liver cancer in rats. The results were dramatic and it was estimated that the cost to treat patients would be less than 70 cents per day. Yet, 4 years later there is no interest in developing this drug for human use.
Just last year, another available industrial chemical, dichloroacetate, was found by researchers at the University of Alberta to shrink tumors in laboratory animals by up to 75%. However, just like the other product, this substance is not patentable and it is virtually impossible to get funding. The university had to solicit public donations to finance a clinical trial.
The hormone melatonin, sold as in inexpensive food supplement, has repeatedly been shown to slow the growth of various cancers when used in conjunction with conventional treatments. Paolo Lissoni, an Italian oncologist, helped write more than 100 articles about melatonin and conducted numerous clinical trials. The pharmaceutical industry has shown absolutely no interest in spite of his continued clinical studies from his hospital in Monza.
The sad news is that cancer research is an “Old Boys Network”. If you do not follow their guidelines and rules, you do not get the research money. Any new approach is dismissed and all the funding is spent doing the same old things, most of it for newer and more expensive drugs that are not better than the old existing ones. The incidence of cancers today is just as high as it was 50 years ago. Most of that research money has not reduced the disease but just contributed to the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.
The second largest part of our cancer dollars, $57 million, is spent on treatment. This is for newer and more powerful forms of radiation, advances in surgical techniques and of course the newest, latest and most expensive drugs. In other words our treatment consists of finding the enemy, and then slashing, burning and poisoning it. That is what we did thirty years ago and very little has changed today. But treatment is something that is available to all Canadian citizens under our universal health coverage. Just last year, the Federal Government put 260 million dollars into the system to help reduce waiting lists for treatment. So where is the extra money actually going? Once again it is the old boy’s network with their hands out, getting more money to find more ways to find your cancer and slice, dice and burn it out of you.
Survivorship and Outcomes 12%
About 29 million of our cancer dollars is spent on survivorship and understanding. This is a very compassionate cause that helps victims and their families. Most of this money is donated, such as Ronald McDonald House which provides housing and support for parents of children receiving treatment for Leukemia. There are a number of organizations and support groups and probably more money should be spent in this area. However, if the prevention funding was greatly increased, maybe we could spend more money educating people on staying healthy rather than caring for them as they die.
Early Detection 8%
Early detection is a great idea and of course too little money is spent on the lethal cancers and too much on the non-lethal. Women have been extremely pro-active about breast cancer. They raise more money for this cancer than any other. The runs, the walks, the pink ribbons and all the hoopla have made the cure rate in excess of 85%. However, the lethal cancers such as lung cancer and colorectal cancers are not popular at all. The cure rate for lung cancer is only 13%. It is not a popular cause. Who wants to run for smokers? Should you wear a black ribbon for lung cancer victims? In fact, only 3% of all money raised for cancer research goes to lung cancer. Cancers such as cervical, lung and colorectal are so lethal because by the time they are diagnosed it is usually too late for treatment. We have done about all we possibly can for breast cancer. It is time to look at the deadly ones that are killing us and put more money and effort into detecting them early and of course preventing them.
Research into the causes of Cancer 10%
Approximately $25 million dollars is spent trying to find out the root causes of cancer. Is it simply a disease of aging? Is it a virus for which we can make a vaccine? Are their certain toxins and chemicals that cause cancer and are any of them in every day use? Unfortunately most of this research is politically motivated. How can a University get funding for this type of research if they feel for example that the fumes from gasoline contribute to lung cancer? The Automobile Association would immediately try to stop funding and get all the public relations people out to spin the results. This happened for years with the tobacco industry before they finally admitted their product did cause heart disease and cancer. The billions of dollars available to the oil companies, car companies and pharmaceutical companies dwarfs the small amount contributed for this research. Unfortunately most of this type of research is privately funded and if they do produce a positive cause and effect relationship, the information will be distorted and the study will probably be dismissed. Think back to the Hooker Chemical Plant, just outside of Buffalo that dumped waste chemicals in the ground water and almost wiped out a small town. To this day they still deny their actions caused any disease. Does proximity to hydro wires cause cancer? Does anybody have enough millions to overspend the spin doctors from the hydro electric companies? This money would be better spent on prevention where at least we educate people on how to stay healthy and alternative life styles.
Scientific Model Systems $1%
A million dollars is the smallest amount of the budget for cancer research, but it is just below the $6 million we spend on prevention. This money goes to a very small group of people who examine the statistics and produce reports on the patterns of the various cancers in our country. The Canadian Cancer Society and Health Canada accumulate these numbers all the time. Do we need to spend another million dollars, mostly on the salaries of people who received a political appointment to examine the scientific models and produce nice little beautifully coloured pie charts? In 1980 Terry Fox lost a leg to cancer and decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer awareness and research. He did not make it and he died the following year but he created a strong tradition of raising huge amounts of money in the hope of curing this disease. Since that time millions of people have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in his name and it has not even made a dent in the cure for cancer.
I find it mind boggling that we spend almost 3 times as much money on salaries ($16 million) as we spend on prevention ($6 million). Furthermore we spend $34 million on office space and equipment, almost 6 times as much as we spend on prevention. Nearly all that money is actually spent on stop smoking campaigns because the people running those campaigns have no other ideas on how to prevent cancer. This results in an uninformed public that continues to get cancer in record numbers. We know that the terrible composition of fast food contributes greatly to obesity. We have definitive evidence that obesity is one of the main causes of cancer. Why do we not treat fast food the way we treated tobacco? We must totally ban all their advertising and put an age limit on who can buy that horrible form of food. We must make them disclose the actual contents on every wrapper and tax fast food the way we tax cigarettes. Our governments subsidize huge conglomerates that grow wheat and corn so that high fructose corn syrup found in colas and sugary bread will be very cheap to buy. And yet they do not subsidize the growers of fruits and vegetables. If we need five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, it should be more affordable than pop or bread. You can see the political influence here. How much influence does the single taxpayer have versus the conglomerates like Monsanto Chemical or the Wheat Marketing Board? If you are a healthy person who does not smoke, is not overweight and who sees your physician sparingly, do you get a reduced rate on your income tax? Is their any incentive in this country to be healthy except for the fear of dying a slow death from a disease like cancer?
We should have hundreds of millions of dollars available to independent researchers at our universities who look into new areas of research and if they find a substance that may help treat or prevent cancer, our government must use its funds to carry on the clinical trials and research and not leave this up to the pharmaceutical industry, whose priority is to make a profit for their shareholders and not our health.
The pharmaceutical industry claims that cancer is not a single disease but a catchall term for 200 related diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. In my mind this is the way the industry obfuscates the understanding of the disease of cancer and misleads the public. Cancer of the liver is hepatic cancer, cancer of skin is melanoma, cancer of the immune system is lymphatic cancer, but breast, lung and colon cancers do not seem to have Latin derivations. The bottom line is that no matter where you find this disease in the body, it is simply a case of normal healthy cells that will not die and multiply at an abnormal rate. Cancerous cells cannot be destroyed by your immune system which is designed to destroy invading organisms such as bacteria, viruses and foreign matter. It cannot destroy cancerous cells because their makeup is identical to the normal cells in your body. Once we find the trigger that turns a normal cell into a cancerous one, we will have discovered the cure to the disease.
If we are going to defeat cancer we need a whole new approach. Just think of a guardrail on a highway. It can stop an out-of-control automobile from reaching the oncoming traffic and save the lives of the passengers and others. Should we be spending 98% of our money on emergency hospital care for car crash victims or should we be spending 98% of our money on guardrails to prevent deaths.