Horowitz: Florida first lady wants to change our entire approach to cancer
The more money our government has pumped into cancer research, the more cancer has proliferated, culminating over the past year or so in an explosion of sudden cancers. We’ve spent $90 billion on cancer research just through the National Cancer Institute from 1971 until last decade. Yes, surgical techniques and early detection have gotten better in making certain cancers more survivable, but why have cancers exploded, and what about the progress and prudence of the standard oncological treatments? Are they really backed by data, science, and the good of the patient or by pharma greed and incentives created by government-funded monopolies, just as we saw with COVID?
This appears to be some of what is vexing the first lady of Florida in pursuit of her new approach to cancer funding, following her personal bout with breast cancer in 2021. “The Cancer Connect Collaborative will analyze and rethink the way Florida approaches cancer research, diagnosis, and treatments — through incentivizing proven and promising approaches to cancer care while reducing the role of bureaucratic red tape and special interests,” said Casey DeSantis during a public roundtable with Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and other local doctors. “This collaborative will chart a course of action that will lead the nation and ultimately save lives."
Typically, federal and state politicians outbid each other in funneling money toward cancer research and treatment that just perpetuates the same failed status quo and likely empowers the same monopoly stifling innovative thinking and approaches. After all, who will oppose a proposal for more cancer research? But this $170 million initiative called the Cancer Connect Collaborative, a large sum of money for a state government, seeks to break down barriers to introducing new ideas.
It all begins with honesty. “We know a lot about cancer – what causes it, and in many cases, what preventative steps can minimize the risk of a diagnosis,” reads the one-page printout from the Collaborative. “It’s time to open the tap on cancer information, and the Collaborative will be tasked with identifying the ways to ensure this is done.”
The Florida first lady passionately asserted, “It’s not good enough any more to hear ‘we don’t know what causes cancer.’ We do know a lot of what causes cancer. And frankly, I would like that information laid out in a straightforward manner free from tainted influences. I’d rather not rely on content and random articles brought to you by special interests that may, unfortunately, be part of the problem.”
Many Americans have long surmised that Big Pharma has kept the “tap of information” on cancer closed to purposely perpetuate a model that maximizes revenue while achieving very uneven and questionable outcomes, often at the cost of the quality of life of the patient. It’s almost like the medical establishment is enjoying this too much. With cancers exploding across the country, we need state governments to start rethinking our approach to cancer and imposing more transparency and direction on the funding rather than a blank check. We must ask why cancers are exploding, what some of the potential causes are, and whether the current regimented way of treating it is really the best approach for humanity.
I’ve witnessed the difficulty and sorrow of many friends and family members going through various forms of cancer treatment in recent years. What is striking about this experience is that the oncologists almost appear to have a computer-based algorithm on how they treat patients. The cost-benefit analyses are already baked into predetermined formulas, and they don’t appear to update them with clear data and clinical outcomes or changing facts on the ground. They are obdurately conditioned to strict, robotic protocols.
What many of us have learned from COVID is that the government-pharma complex is willing to push dangerous and ineffective treatments on patients while actively stifling much safer and more promising alternatives. As such, does anyone really think there is no better approach to cancer than the current circulation of endless forms of chemo that are fueled by the data provided by the manufacturers themselves, not necessarily real-life outcomes? Remember the 95% efficacy of Pfizer’s shot? Do you really think that was the company’s first rodeo manipulating its trial data? At some point, outcomes need to matter.
To that end, DeSantis and Ladapo are promising to gather state data about the proliferation and treatment of cancer to make it “both timely available and easily accessible.” The key is to actually have trustworthy and timely data on the cancer rates and reoccurrence rates. Without that we cannot assess the efficacy of this pharma empire, which often accounts for the bulk of revenue for some companies and many medical specialties.
“Currently, there is about a two-year lag between the time the data is collected, submitted, and analyzed. We need real-time data to asses current trends … for example, why are so many types of cancer skewing younger and becoming more prevalent? Case in point [referring to her own experience]. Why are there increasing concerns recently from some physicians about higher rates of reoccurrence?” said Casey DeSantis.
Indeed, one of the lessons we should learn from the broken health care system in the wake of COVID is that you can’t properly treat something you fail to diagnose and asses in terms of its cause.
This was the problem from day one with COVID. At least 95% of doctors were flummoxed by COVID, but there were certain doctors, such as Drs. Brian Tyson and George Fareed in El Centro, California, who were clearly treating thousands of people in their urgent care with success. Why didn’t the medical establishment observe what they did and break the barriers for their successes to become a part of the standard of care elsewhere? We now know why this was the case with COVID, but who’s to say this isn’t happening to some degree with cancer treatment too?
Funding for cancer is always a double-edged sword. As we saw with COVID, the funding for treatment fueled terrible products and was used to actively ensure that no effective product would ever emerge or be promoted. Despite our medical system spending $600 billion a year on cancer treatment, double the per-person rate of the average of other wealthy countries, there is no evidence of meaningfully better outcomes, according to a recent study published in JAMA.
The fact that this cancer funding is being inaugurated under the watch of Dr. Ladapo, a man who recognizes the lessons of the COVID disaster, should give us more confidence that he will take the approach to cancer in a different direction, just as he stands alone on the COVID shots.
Ladapo, during his remarks, spoke about the need to “step out” of the typical threshold standards of the NIH for preliminary research needed to fund a clinical trial. As we’ve all witnessed, that standard is often used as a gatekeeper to keep out promising treatments while green-lighting problematic ones. Ladapo spoke of his own experience as a researcher in how he plans to use some of this funding to offer entrepreneur scientists who might not be connected wit the heavy-hitter pharma companies to prove the promise of their innovative research and ideas.
Also, in what sounded like a clear understanding of the lessons of COVID, Casey DeSantis called for the group to study all the “best practices” across the nation and state to see what works and why it’s not being done everywhere. “Why, if a physician has been utilizing a proven technique within their hospital system for years, and that successful procedure is not available to other patients across the state – if not, why not? What reasons or barriers to entry are prohibiting successful practices from being made available to Floridians? Is it bureaucracy? Is it the lack of a billing code that allows for reimbursement? ...How does one treatment get the reimbursement green light, while others may not?”
Put another way, is the remdesivir vs. ivermectin dynamic also playing out in cancer research and protocols?Overall, DeSantis was motivated by her personal experience to ensure that others have clarity and the best options headed forward. “I have to admit this is not a subject that is very easy, as you can imagine, for me to talk about. But I’m of the mind [that] when much is given, much is expected. And if I have the opportunity … to put a lot of really smart people into a room to rethink the way we approach cancer care, I’m going to do it, even if I have to use the C-word now and again.”