“Others may contend that reporting on the lack of progress made against cancer steals precious hope from those who need it most. With each life saved, with each report of success, they say, comes renewed hope for those newly diagnosed and for their loved ones.
I do not dispute the raw power of hope. I have felt it myself, believed in its magic to help me though my own bout with cancer long ago. I have seen my mother rely on it, wield it, call it forth in the darkest hours of her own fight. None of us, perhaps, could live without it.
But for hope to be more then mere wishing, it needs vision; it needs a commitment of will; it needs a clear perspective on where we are and where we need to go.
And for that, it helps to know how we got here.”
~ Clifton Leaf from The Truth in Small Doses
This is the ninth Note on cancer we’ve done so far. (Check them all out here.) I picked this book up after Travis Christofferson referenced it a couple times in Tripping over the Truth. I’ve been looking forward to reading it, but held off as I focused on super-practical books on the metabolic approach to cancer that have empowered my brother in his quest to conquer his cancer.
Clifton Leaf is a great writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Fortune magazine. He tells us that nine years before he wrote this book he began his reporting on cancer with a five-word question: How did we get here? (btw: My five word question when my brother was diagnosed: How do we conquer cancer? <— His and yours and everyone else’s…)
Specifically, Leaf wanted to know: How did we get to a point, 40+ years after Nixon declared War on Cancer, where the real death rate is, essentially, the same as it was in the 1950s? (Despite what we’ve been led to believe and all the cash spent.) That’s a great question. And, he provides a powerful look at what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. (Get a copy of the book here.)
Although wonderfully written (and I highly recommend it), I have to say it was a bit challenging for me to read at times. Why? In short: Because I think cancer is, at its core, a metabolic disease and Clifton’s narrative is written from the prevailing “cancer is caused by genes” perspective.
To put it in perspective, the only reference to Otto Warburg (the godfather of the metabolic theory of cancer) was a chapter-leading quote that, a bit ironically, quotes Warburg from a speech he gave entitled: “The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer.”
Unfortunately, and I say this with deep respect, Clifton didn’t actually talk about WHAT Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg thought was “The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer.” (Hint: He thought the prime cause of cancer was metabolic dysfunction.)
Which is truly unfortunate, because a) I’d LOVE (!!!) to hear what Clifton and his brilliant mind think about Warburg’s ideas (and, of course, the metabolic theory argued for by its #1 modern proponent, Thomas Seyfried whose journal articles and book Cancer as a Metabolic Disease we profile); and, b) I think Warburg’s framework provides the most powerful answer to the sub-title’s provocative statement “Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer—and How to Win It.”
Update: After typing that I realized that, perhaps, Clifton has updated his thinking on the subject (the book was written in 2013; I’m writing in 2018). Enter: Google: “Clifton Leaf Otto Warburg.”
First result: BINGO! A Fortune article entitled: “The Deadly Link Between Sugar and Cancer” in which Clifton dips his toe in the water and recommends Travis’s Tripping over the Truth for more on the subject. Awesome. For now, let’s explore a few ideas on how the war on cancer is *really* going. But first, let’s start with the end of the book. :)