We must persevere in our fight against cancer


The Miami Herald said in an editorial yesterday: DARE we hope for a cure for cancer? Yes, a thousand times yes -- in the name of all who have died, suffered or comforted those stricken.

It is hardly surprising that doctors and hospitals around the country have been flooded with calls from people wanting to take part in the human trials of two promising new anti-cancer drugs. Cancer, which now trails only heart disease as the leading cause of death in this country, saps not only its victims' strength but also that of their families. Over the years there have been many breakthroughs in our understanding of how cells go so awry and how best to diagnose and treat cancer. But none is sufficient to banish the dread of hearing the words: You have cancer.

The latest breakthrough -- the discovery of two drugs that lTC vanquish tumors in mice by interfering with their blood supply -- has raised hope to dizzying heights. One reason for optimism is simply that the drugs' discoverer, Dr. Judah Folkman of Children's Hospital in Boston, utilized a new approach, identifying natural substances that stimulate and inhibit the growth of cells. The result: a possible treatment without side effects.

Will the substances, named angiostatin and endostatin, work the same in humans as in mice? The National Cancer Institute rightly has made their testing its top priority, but human trials will take 18 months to yield results. Successful treatments in animals don't always produce the same results in humans.

Prevention continues to be important, including such options as curbing cigarette smoking and using sunscreens. Also effective: early diagnosis, and among those already afflicted, continuing treatment regimens.

Hope inspires, but prudence dictates perseverance.

Pub Date: 5/08/98

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