Dr. John Bittner discovered the virus that causes breast cancer in mice while working at Jackson Memorial Laboratory in 1936. His colleagues were surprised, but they didn’t doubt his findings: A virus, passed in the breast milk of infected mothers, caused breast cancer in their female offspring, lymphoma in their male offspring, and, occasionally lung cancer in both sexes. The rest of the scientific community thought that the existence of tumor viruses was preposterous and, mercilessly, hurled nothing but ridicule down on those who thought them real – and dangerous!
Decades passed and, slowly, scientists everywhere, but especially at the National Institutes of Health, came around to accepting the existence of tumor viruses. By 1970, at least 100 different tumor viruses had been found in animals. As for the breast cancer virus, it had been found in other mammals: rats, cats, dogs, monkeys, and humans. Scientists had found the breast cancer virus in women with breast cancer; they found the virus in human breast milk; they found the virus in women with a family history of breast cancer. In the most gratifying way, research on the human breast cancer virus advanced nicely between 1955 and 1970, in step with advances in medical technology. So much so that scientists testifying before Congress in the run-up to the National Cancer Act in September, 1971 mentioned the breast cancer virus on every day of the Senate hearings.
But when the National Cancer Act was signed, sealed, and delivered to the American people by President Nixon in December, 1971 the need for tumor virus research was deemed irrelevant: Nixon, and those who’d pushed hard for a national ‘war on cancer’ (e.g., Mary Lasker, Solomon Garb, and Sidney Farber, et. al.), promised to cure cancer within five years – in time for the nation’s bicentennial, 1976. Thus, tumor virus research at the National Institutes of Health and, therefore, everywhere else in the country, was put to the curb like so much trash.
There it stayed for many years. Sitting on top of the garbage pile was the breast cancer virus, virtually abandoned even though by then it seemed to be the most likely and direct cause of human breast cancer.
Undaunted, a handful of scientists (James Holland, Beatriz Pogo, Polly Etkind, Paul Levine, Robert Garry, Caroline Ford, James Lawson) found the money to continue the research. They are now closing in on this virus as an important, likely causative, factor in 40-94% of all human breast cancer. In July of last year, sixteen scientists in Europe reported finding the virus in human saliva, and they concluded that this may be the way it is spread among people.
Despite the preponderance of the data, which are now converging and compelling, less than $100,000 a year is spent supporting this research.
Therefore, we have a problem. And, therefore, we have to do something. But what?
We need to start a revolution. Not one that involves putting on camouflage, loading up on weapons, and riding around in a jeep through the jungle, the desert, or the cities. Not one that involves passing out pamphlets or inflammatory books. Not one in which we set up tents in town squares, or march across bridges, or set some things on fire. Not one that involves Seal Team 6 or drones. No, not any of that.
We’re going for a different kind of upheaval: We’re going to make a movie.
I’m flying out to Los Angeles tomorrow to meet with film producers who are interested in making a full length film about the history of this breast cancer virus. Think “Erin Brockovich”.
See you tomorrow evening at the St. Felix on Cahuenga Boulevard. There’ll be celebrities, music, food, and fund-raising for our film about the “Pink Virus”, which we’re calling A POX ON US.
Be there! Why? Because it doesn’t make any sense to try to cure a disease that can be prevented. That’s why.