Sunday, March 01, 2009


Here is my open letter to Senator Arlen Specter Re "Curing Cancer"

Senator Specter,

Since I heard you make a similar comment I want to express my objection to your and President Obama’s use of the phrase “we need to cure cancer in our lifetime”

This phrase is not consistent with what experts know about the biology of cancer- over 200 different types I might add.

Senator -There is no “cure for cancer”. Just like there is no “cure” for aging. We can cure individual patients with certain types of cancer, thank goodness, but indisputably, the greatest risk factor for most cancers is cellular and bodily aging.

Declaring we “need to cure cancer” is well intentioned but naïve – harkening back to President Richard Nixon’s failed war on cancer from the 1970’s.

We must continue to chip away at the many factors that contribute to cancers but to suggest we will “cure” all is completely unrealistic and is actually irresponsible.

I share your interest in these diseases and applaud your own personal triumphs and political leadership.


Richard A. Lippin MD
February 25, 2009


Blogger Mindy said...

I agree wholeheartedly. There is a huge gap in public understanding between what can and should be managed and treated, and what might be cured forever. The latter sounds sexy; the former is a much smaller subset.

To more easily explain the nature of cancer to my children (a group that requires simple terms and clear illustration), I've taught them that every one of us would develop some form of cancer if we lived long enough and did not die of another cause. In some cases, dying of cancer is dying of natural causes, as age is the single greatest risk factor.

I also tell them that the same cellular changes that cause cancer through wear and tear can also occur randomly or through genetic inheritance to the young and unlucky (or slightly older and unhealthy). They now understand that no one could have prevented our aged dog developing bone cancer, and that it is as natural to decline in old age as it is to create new life.

That is not to say that we should not continue to search out ways to to eradicate or reduce death by preventable causes. It takes wisdom to separate what can be done to improve public health in general and what is essentially the search for impossible cures and its predictable side effect: encouragement of futile care.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Blake said...


Very well said.Thank you so much for posting

Dr. Rick Lippin

7:02 PM  

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