Yet another cancer cure announcement. News agencies.
Every once in a couple of years, some medical institute or the other announces that they are on the cusp of a dramatic breakthrough in man’s indomitable quest to find a cure for cancer. Papers are presented at leading world medical conferences, the media go agog over the likely outcome and the pharma industry starts licking its chops over the coming financial windfall that awaits them, while scrips of leading pharma brands go through the roof in ecstatic anticipation. Many of these brilliant minds are even recognised handsomely through prestigious awards at highly respected forums. Usually announcements of this nature pertain to specific forms of malignancy. As in, breast cancer, lung cancer or pre-cancerous brain tumours and so on. As always, most of these revelations which come out with a bang, end in a whimper. After the initial excitement, things quieten down and nothing much is heard of again. Stricken, yet hopeful patients, meanwhile, find their spirits soaring only to come hurtling down in a heavy, anti-climactic thud.
That said, one must acknowledge the tremendous strides that have been taken in the field of cancer research, particularly in the areas of early screening and detection, enabling partial or even complete cures. However, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of solution as yet available for this dreaded affliction. Tuberculosis and many other ailments were similarly feared in previous decades, but continuous research and unremitting dedication by the medical profession have ensured complete success in treatment. We haven’t quite reached that stage where cancer is concerned, and we secretly continue to fear the possibility of harbouring ‘The Big C’ every time we set out for our annual medical check-up. ‘Hmmm,’ intones Dr. Banerjee gravely, scanning your routine blood report, ‘I am not sure I like this sudden spike in you SGPT and SGOT count. We’ll need to conduct further tests. And what is this little black mole at the back of your neck? I don’t like the look of it.’ Difficult man to please, Dr. Banerjee. By definition you can’t see anything on the back of your neck, so you just sit there stoically, trying not to look alarmed. This effectively ruins your peace of mind for the next few days. In the end, after running a battery of tests and biopsies, it all turns out to be much ado about nothing. However, you will now have to be treated for ulcers brought about by extreme tension and unconscionable medical bills. Forget about the Scotch, you are now prescribed one large peg of liquid Gelusil every evening. What makes matters worse is that cancer is one of those conditions where, more often than not, the treatment is worse than the disease, involving as it does, long, expensive and painful procedures often culminating infructuously, early detection notwithstanding. The patient can’t be blamed for thinking, ‘I’d rather meet my maker than go through this torture.’ All this grimness, read in conjunction with a recent World Health Organisation report that one in every ten Indians will develop cancer during his or her lifetime, hardly adds to our collective sense of well-being. The Grim Reaper is clearly working overtime. And the rampant, novel Coronavirus is not helping either.
Let us at this juncture, spare a thought for the rodent community. I am sure the medical experts from time immemorial had valid reasons why they thought rats or mice were the best guinea pigs (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor) to be experimented upon, to introduce as-yet-untried medicines for a variety of diseases that attack human beings. Doubtless these creatures, the original precursors of the dreaded plague, are thought to be eminently expendable, and therefore all manner of deadly trials are inflicted upon them. One’s heart goes out to them, but hey, they drew the short straw in God’s elaborate plan, and are paying the price. Presumably in a good cause – for humans that is, not the rats. One doesn’t quite see the slaughter of other animals for human consumption in quite the same light, because that was the way God supposedly divined things on earth. You simply can’t keep God out of the equation, a real busybody. Ours not to reason why.
Which is why the latest news report, promising a complete cure for any form of cancer, caught my attention. I must admit I read it with a degree of scepticism but as the saying goes, ‘hope springs eternal.’ I may be guilty of a slight exaggeration, as I attempt to share these dramatic findings trusting to my dodgy memory and some hastily scribbled notes from what I read a couple of weeks ago, but the kernel of the research results appears to be that a group of scientists in the United States of America may be on the verge of discovering the much longed for cure for cancer by developing a vital drug that might hold potential to kill the toughest of cancer cells and shrink the malignant tumours. The Holy Grail beckons. This could very well be the harbinger of a dramatic, scientific breakthrough that doctors and cancer sufferers have been, literally, dying for. Apparently, the treatment has been code-named ‘CF33’ (how do they think up these weird codes?), and if it delivers the goods as hoped for, it promises to kill every type of cancer cell in a petri dish (a kind of shallow glass bowl in which you test cells for bacteria) and has also claimed to completely kill or shrink tumours in mice. Again with the rats!
The long and the short of it is that, once again we wait with bated breath to learn if this latest missive on cancer research reveals anything substantive, or if it’s just another one of those periodic adrenalin-uppers that keeps us all hooked for a few weeks before it vanishes from our consciousness through sheer inertia. Lest my somewhat glib observations should send out the wrong signal, let me reiterate that I yield to no one in my admiration for all these scientific and medical boffins who slave night and day to find cures for all manner of pestilential germs that bug our society (sorry, but sometimes puns just happen). More power to their shoulders. As this anonymous quote so pithily puts it, ‘Cancer is a word, not a sentence.’