WASHINGTON--The original 'war on cancer' was declared by the President of the United States in 1971, and a cure was promised within 10 years. In that same year, Texas Instruments was developing the first pocket calculator and Intel had just introduced the microchip, said financier Michael R. Milken at the National Cancer Summit. The meeting was sponsored by the Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate (CaP CURE, see box on page 20), which Mr. Milken founded, and by other leading cancer organizations.
Today, 25 years later, "Powerbooks have made those first TI calculators seem like relics, and silicon chips drive everything from microwave ovens to missiles. Yet victory in the war against cancer still eludes us," said Mr. Milken, chairman of CaP CURE. He believes it is time to re-think and re-declare the war on cancer, to move from "a war of attrition to a new plan of attack."
Mr. Milken, a prostate cancer survivor, called cancer a worldwide problem, requiring a sustained and committed international mobilization of resources. "The United States has both successfully led and participated in previous international mobilizations," he said, citing the 1991 Gulf War effort.
In his talk, Mr. Milken suggested 10 "road signs" to follow in re-thinking the war on cancer:
1. Internationalize the war on cancer by encouraging other wealthy nations, such as Japan and Saudi Arabia, to invest heavily in cancer research. At present, he said, Japan, with the world's second largest economy, plans to spend only $543 million on cancer research over 10 years, less than 3% of the United States' estimated spending.
2. Show large corporations how investing in medical research and preventive health measures can save them money. "Currently, cancer is costing the nation more than $100 billion a year in direct and indirect health-care costs that can be reduced only through cancer prevention, early detection, and discovery of a cure," he said.
3. Recruit and fund a world-class scientific cancer team. At present, he said, fewer than 10% of the world's leading chemists, biologists, and other scientists work in the field of cancer.