Thursday, August 06, 2009

A passionate call for a new war on cancer by James Watson

Sure, James Watson has been known, especially recently, to say some outrageous things. But here is something I think everyone, scientists and the public should read - an opinoin piece in the NY Times today by Watson ( Op-Ed Contributor - To Fight Cancer, Know the Enemy -

This piece is worth reading because it contains some critical ideas and wisdom which has been missing in discussions of the fight against cancer.

First, Watson discusses the critical importance of basic science and says that when he expressed this importance to the National Cancer Institute advisory board many years ago, he was eventually booted off.

Second, he discusses how we have only recently begun to understand the basic biology of cancer (he also mentions how the human genome project has helped in this). The genome project will, he says, allow for the determination of most/all of the major genetic changes that occur in cancer cells.

Third, he discusses some limitations of the FDA drug approval process that limit the ability to test combinations of drugs which Watson believes will be needed in the fight against cancer.

Fourth he suggests that the National Cancer Institute should help support small biotech companies in the development of new drugs since venture capital has dried up for such endeavors.

As usual, Watson would not be Watson if he did not say something potentially controversial. In this, the most controversial thing is probably how he discusses that the National Cancer Institute has become a "a largely rudderless ship in dire need of a bold captain who will settle only for total victory. " Now, I do not have any opinion about this since I have not followed NCI or its leadership. But it is certainly worth considering Watson's opinion here.

In the end, Watson says the time is now to reinvigorate the "War on Cancer." Despite misgivings about many things he has been up to recently, I found myself agreeing with almost everything he said in this piece. Again, definitely worth a read.

No comments:

Post a Comment