“We are not limited by science, we are limited by our ability to make good use of the information … we already have.”  Vincent DeVita, The Death Of Cancer

 

In the waning hours of daylight in the fall of 2015 Cindy Sullivan’s life came to an end.  She’d battled the most aggressive form of breast cancer known to man, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), for several years, losing ground by inches by the day.  First, the shocking diagnosis.  Then the diagnostic workup – every test under the sun!  The intensive, debilitating chemo.  The surgery.  The radiation.  The reconstruction.  The failure of the reconstruction due to infection:  no surprise.  More surgery.  Soon, recurrence.  More treatment and even more tests.  Drugs that worked less effectively than the ones that preceded them … until there was nothing left to do but wait for mercy to take its toll.

All along this journey Cindy remained unbelievably upbeat. She wrote a novel.  She became an activist in support of the development of a preventive breast cancer vaccine, the one that Professor Vincent Tuohy developed at the Cleveland Clinic in 2010 that still awaits permission from the FDA to see if it is safe and effective for use in women.  (Note:  It’s 100% safe and effective in preventing breast cancer in three different strains of mice, as good as it gets before it climbs into the ring with human breast cancer.)

Scientists on several continents have found the breast cancer virus in 70% of women with inflammatory breast cancer.  Still, as DeVita states in his excellent book on the history of cancer research in the USA and the role he played in advancing it over the past 40 years, we continue to fail to use the information we have at hand:  the virus that unquestionably causes breast cancer in mice, has been implicated as the cause of breast cancer in cats, rats, dogs, monkeys and humans.  Professor James Holland, a friend of DeVita’s – indeed, a man he had lunch with, as described in the introduction of his book – reported finding the breast cancer virus in 40-94% of human breast cancer cases he’s examined.  In fact, scientists around the world are now 85% certain that this virus causes breast cancer in women.  Sixteen scientists from three countries reported finding the virus in human saliva and they believe this is the way it circulates in the human population.

In July 2013, Professor Holland was invited to give the opening address at the 60th anniversary celebration of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center, a place where DeVita carved out his career and made his mark as its Director before moving on to Memorial Sloan-Kettering and then to Yale.  Holland was asked to speak about the human breast cancer virus and the 30+ years he’s spent pursuing it.  Now I ask you, would the National Institutes of Health have invited Holland to talk for over an hour about the human breast cancer virus if the men who run the agency don’t subscribe to the hypothesis that a large portion – perhaps, the majority – of human breast cancer is caused by a virus?

Picking up where DeVita leaves off with his judgment that we need to use the knowledge we have instead of running after whatever’s new like a child with too many presents to open on Christmas morning, I’d like to offer this:  Does it make sense to try to cure a disease that we can prevent?

The Uber Cure for breast cancer is a preventive vaccine that targets this virus.  A race for the Uber Cure requires that we complete the research on the human breast cancer virus and use that knowledge to prevent the disease.  How many more women like Cindy Sullivan must we lose to gain the public attention required to use the information ‘we already have’ to achieve the Uber Cure, the Pure Cure – a Pink Vaccine?

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