I attended a special meeting in Indianapolis last night that was arranged by film producer Steve Zukerman to promote our film about the history of the breast cancer virus and our hope for the development of a vaccine that can both treat and prevent breast cancer.
The response to our presentation was both overwhelming and deeply gratifying. Thank you, Steve, and thank you everyone who attended and stayed for hours – on a week night! No one in the audience, from politicians to hedge fund investors to survivors to family and friends of women who’ve died of breast cancer to a major TV network news anchor to technology geeks to the film crew didn’t go away jaw-dropped and cheering us on to revolution, which is exactly what we’d hoped for.
The question I posed was this: Does it make sense to try to find a cure for a disease that can be prevented? Lest anyone misunderstand and wonder if I plan to ignore the needs of breast cancer survivors, let me be clear: they deserve our best efforts, and we will not diminish our work to add every day that we can to their lives. But we, as leaders and visionaries, cannot be satisfied with the fruits of diagnosis, treatment and the hope for a cure, not when prevention via a vaccine beckons from both the rear (100 years of research) and from the vanguard (scientists are now 85% certain that the virus that causes breast cancer in mice plays a role in 40-75% of human breast cancer.)
Progress in nailing the breast cancer virus has been too slow because, for a variety of reasons, the system has been dragging its feet. My response to the inertia is this: Tomorrow is not enough. We can’t afford to wait another 100 years to have the answer to the question, “Does a virus cause breast cancer in women?” We can’t afford to wait to see if the profit-driven healthcare system that only makes money when it has a disease to diagnose and treat gets tired of harvesting over $20 billion a year from this disease. Rest assured, capitalists never tire of making profits, which is fine if you’re selling shoes; but I am talking about breast cancer. We can’t afford the co-pays, the deductibles, the radiation therapy fatigue, the chemotherapy loss of hair, the mutilating surgery, the less-than-impressive-and-fools-nobody reconstructions, the loss of dignity, the loss of pay, the loss of lives, the incalculable losses too numerous to count.
Let me repeat, Tomorrow is not enough. Tomorrow is not enough for women who are battling breast cancer, nor is it enough for women who are at risk for breast cancer – all of us. Tomorrow is not enough for the men who love these women, nor for the country, nor for the world.
If you have any doubt about the validity of this research, let me tell you that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorses the hypothesis of a human mammary tumor virus; they just won’t fund it. Go ahead, satisfy your curiosity about where the NIH stands on this subject. Watch this video, archived at the National Library of Medicine, and see a packed auditorium of cancer scientists applaud the man who has been leading this research for the past 30 years, Professor James Holland: bit.ly/HollandNIH
Then, after you’ve watched the video (Hint: fast forward 18 minutes into the presentation in order to bypass the protracted introductory remarks), do something constructive and do it today. Share the video with your friends and followers on social media. Share your comments here and there. I think you will agree that even though we haven’t yet arrived at certainty – we still have work to do to get to 100% confidence that the human mammary tumor virus causes breast cancer in women – we can’t afford to wait until ‘tomorrow’ to decide whether or not to fully support and fund this research.
#TINE – tomorrow is not enough.