21 February 2007

Pledge to the World - Part IV

Several years earlier, the surgical-oncology department at U.C.L.A. had devised an experimental treatment for osteosarcoma, a cancerous growth, around the end of the femur, just above the knee. (It involved) a new chemotherapy drug called Adriamycin. Oncologists had nicknamed Adriamycin “the red death,” because of its cranberry color and its toxicity. Not only did it cause severe nausea, vomiting, mouth blisters, and reduced blood counts; repeated doses could injure cardiac muscle and lead to heart failure.

Imagine treating a patient--imagine having your loved one treated--by a drug called "the red death." A drug that kills you only slightly slower than it kills the cancer cells that will kill you, too. And all this comes about because cancer cells have a zombie-like immunity that dichloroacetate (DCA) can strip away. Once that happens, drugs far less lethal than "the red death" can wipe out cancer cells with fewer damage to the patient whose life is being saved.

The quote above is from a New Yorker article, by Jerome Groopman, about the way doctors make decisions. Time and again doctors must make quick judgments that can have a seriously beneficial or serously damaging effect on a patient's health. But when it comes to cancer, many of the decisions are made murkier by the simple fact that treating the disease is only slightly better--in terms of adverse health impact--than letting the problem continue unchecked.

The path of science has been the reduction of uncertainty, the clearing away of doubts and speculation in favor of certainty. Maybe not full certainty, but at least the reduction of ignorance and risk. When something as simple as DCA proves science is on the right path, anything that can be done to make its potential erupt is worth doing. Anybody who can step up to make the process reach fruition is doing the right thing. And for a nation to do so is not only the right thing to do, it is the only thing to do.

And there's no reason why that nation can't be Ours. It's Puerto Rico's choice to step up on a global stage and make its mark on--and for--the world.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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