I went for a haircut recently and my hairdresser, upon finding out I’m a biology Ph.D. student, tells me – “You know, scientists cured cancer years ago but they’re not revealing the cure because it’s all a money-making industry. How else can one disease take so long to cure?” Here’s what I explained to her as somewhat of an “insider” in the biology field:

  1. The one thing I want you take away from this post is that cancer is not a single disease. It is an umbrella term for over a hundred separate diseases. You’ve probably heard of many of these – lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, prostate cancer, etc. etc. Cancer has an additional level of complication – every single type of cancer has many sub-types. E.g. lung cancer includes small cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, large cell cancer and adenocarcinoma. Thinking about curing cancer yourself? Not so easy, because each of the many different types (and sub-types) of cancer has its own separate set of causes (genetic and environmental), symptoms, and treatments
  2. There is a lot more money in curing cancer than not curing it. Intellectual property (like patents) continues to earn companies many billions of dollars. Researchers at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business estimated that even modest advancements in a cure for cancer would be worth about 50 trillion dollars!
  3. Science is slow. It is a methodical process with appropriate checks and balances to find the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. On top of that, experiments often don’t work, hypotheses are often wrong, experimental methods always need optimization. The same theory is tested from multiple different standpoints to ensure it really does hold true. This takes time.

Scientists are working on finding a cure for cancer, I promise you. In the meantime, always be a proponent for additional funding (government or private) for science research. Empirical research in the sciences is one of the last true beacons of truth we have left. Let’s invest in ourselves.


A scientist

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