Is Cancer Research Being True to the Legacy of Terry Fox?

Is Cancer Research Being True to the Legacy of Terry Fox?

By Rick Hendershot

Every year in September millions of Canadians pay special tribute to a very special young man named Terry Fox. Terry was the young Canadian who after having his leg amputated because of cancer decided he would run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. That run took place in the spring and summer of 1980 and was known as the “Marathon of Hope”.

After 142 days of running 26 miles a day (a marathon a day), and after 3339 miles, Terry was forced to end his run near the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario on September 1, 1980. His cancer had returned, and this time it was in his lungs.

Several months later while still just 22 years old Terry succumbed to cancer.

Running for “Cancer Research”

The initial objective of the Marathon of Hope was to raise roughly 25 millions dollars — one dollar for every Canadian at that time. Terry’s goal was actually met before he died, due to donations and pledges made during his run and during a telethon held shortly after he was forced to end his run.

In that short spring and summer of 1980 Terry had become one of Canada’s most important and inspirational heroes, and the legacy of the “Marathon of Hope” has lived on for 25 years, increasing in its appeal and scope every year.

The annual “Terry Fox Run” continues to be held annually across Canada, the US, and other countries around the world. According to current sources, the Terry Fox Run has now raised more than $400 million for cancer research.

Are we further ahead after $400 million?

For Canadians Terry Fox is the ultimate hero, and this makes it sacrilegious to even suggest that all is not well with the Marathon of Hope and the “cancer research” that it fuels.

Nevertheless I suspect Terry himself would be surprised that we are not further along the road to a “cure for cancer” after raising and devoting such an amazingly large amount of money to that cause.

The amounts of money raised in the US and other countries are even more staggering, and in spite of very few tangible results to show for the “research” that is carried on, people continue to shell out money because they have been told, and continue to believe that a cure is “right around the corner.”

Is it possible that the cancer research industry may have become a cushy gravy train for the thousands of fund raisers and researchers who make their living this way?

Some critics have even suggested that the “cancer industry” has become little more than an arm of the pharmaceutical and chemical industries? (For an interesting article that offers a critical analysis of the America Cancer Society, go to American Cancer Society: The World’s Wealthiest “Nonprofit” Institution.

Legitimate questions we should be asking

At the very minimum it seems a perfectly legitimate question to ask “How much ‘cure’ has all this money bought us?”

I don’t know. But I suspect it is not a lot. I may be hopelessly behind the times, but it seems to me that most of the “cures” being practised these days are pretty much like the ones that were being used back in 1980 — surgery, chemo-therapy, and radiation.

Of course we are told that cancer cure rates have substantially improved. But these statistics are easily manipulated, and advocates of continuing the current research regime have such a vested interest in pointing to their success that their claims have to be met with at least mild scepticism.

One source that confirms this scepticism is this quote from a 1998 article called “Cancer Research — a Super Fraud?”. Commenting on the US National Cancer Program Dr.John Bailer said,

“My overall assessment is that the national cancer programme must be judged a qualified failure” Dr. John Bailer, who spent 20 years on the staff of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and was editor of its journal.  Dr. Bailer also says: “The five year survival statistics of the American Cancer Society are very misleading. They now count things that are not cancer, and, because we are able to diagnose at an earlier stage of the disease, patients falsely appear to live longer. Our whole cancer research in the past 20 years has been a total failure. More people over 30 are dying from cancer than ever before… More women with mild or
benign diseases are being included in statistics and reported as being ‘cured’. When government officials point to survival figures and say they are winning the war against cancer they are using those survival rates improperly.”

Disrepectful?

To many people comments like this sound like an insult to the millions who have put their hope in a high tech cure for cancer. And many are afraid to question the status quo because of the respect we have for people like Terry Fox.

But I wonder if a 22 year old with the innocence and courage to take on the impossible task of running 5,000 miles on one leg
would be happy with the way things are today.

Would Terry Fox be happy to see that some cancer society branches in the US devote only about 10% of the funds they raise to the actual delivery of cancer services? Would he understand why substantial portions of cancer society budgets go for the purchase of real estate and buildings rather than
actually helping cancer victims and doing research into the causes of cancer?

Would he be pleased to learn that the boards of the major cancer organizations are filled with executives with ties to drug and chemical companies?

Would he take comfort in the fact that the well-known environmental causes of cancer are virtually ignored by researchers because these so often implicate food, chemical and drug companies?

Would he be glad that the efforts of researchers and fund raisers might actually be standing in the way of real progress in the fight against cancer because these researchers are so often in the employ of the very corporations that profit from the sale of cancer causing products?

Back in 1980 when Terry was running through Ontario he was asked by a passerby if he thought he was being used. “I want them to use me more.” was Terry’s reply.

Somehow I don’t think the current state of affairs is quite what he had in mind.

Rick Hendershot is a writer and online publisher of  The Linknet Publishing Network.

Other sources critical of the cancer research industry: http://www.preventcancer.com – http://www.cancertutor.com/WarBetween/War_Research.html

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