Thoughts on the “Cancer Industry”

Recently, someone I met—an educated, reasonably intelligent, otherwise very personable man—told me he truly believes that the “cancer industry” is a big con. He said that cancer will never be cured because it is too profitable to all involved. Further, he thinks that, although I “apparently believe in” what I do, my job—supervising the development of NCCN's clinical information—is loathsome.My first reaction was shock that someone I actually knew thought like this, but the conversation forced me to think about and evaluate what I think about cancer and its treatment. This list is what I have come to believe in the past 20 years of working in and around oncology: 1. CANCER IS BAD. I wish it didn't exist. If I could make it disappear today, I would, even if that meant I had to be a dentist or wash windows in high rises for a living. I suspect most oncologists feel the same way. 2. If a “cure” were suddenly invented, I believe it would be immediately available. I know that when important new data are released, we immediately incorporate those data into guidelines, regardless of the financial impact whether positive or negative. 3. Many in the cancer community do have vested interests in cancer treatment—the pharmaceutical industry, payors, organized medicine, and clinicians. These people and companies are dealing with complex, interrelated, and sometimes competing issues of cancer economics. Within each of these industries, there are dedicated individuals trying to solve these problems. 4. Most of the people personally involved in oncology...

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Joan S. McClure, MS, is Senior Vice President of Clinical Information and Publications for the NCCN. She is responsible for the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™; associated Guidelines for Patients in both English and Spanish; the NCCN Drugs & Biologics Compendium; NCCN Information Technology; and JNCCN; and also serves as an Associate Editor for JNCCN. Ms. McClure previously managed national oncology information programs for patients, health professionals, and the public on contract with the U. S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). She directed investigator and patient recruitment efforts in oncology for a multinational contract research organization, where she also managed the technical and scientific efforts to identify and develop standards for medical and toxicology data for submission to regulatory authorities in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

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