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Expert talks ‘war on cancer’

By Brandon Blackwell

Sept. 27, 2012

Since the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971, the U.S. has fervently battled the major cause of death.

But the victories in the war on cancer have been underwhelming, according to one expert.
Gerald Kutcher, a professor at Binghamton University in New York, visited Cleveland State on Tuesday to speak about on the nation’s flawed quest to prevent, treat and cure the disease.

Prof. Gerald Kutcher The science, medicine and technology historian addressed more than 60 people in the Student Center Ballroom.

“The thought at the time was: we can shoot somebody to the moon, we created the atomic bomb, all we need to do is put money into cancer and we can cure it,” Kutcher said in an interview before his presentation, adding that the nation’s hubris in the late 1960s and early 1970s may have led to underestimating the level of coordination needed to combat the disease.

He examines the faults in his paper “Research in the Wild: Controversies over the U.S. War on Cancer.”

The title is a reference to what he describes as a scattershot approach to cancer research.

“People will learn about the various challenges to the U.S. War on Cancer, and it will show the character of those challenges and how difficult it has been to reach consensus on how we can challenge the scourge of cancer,” Kutcher said. “Research in the Wild” will end up as a chapter in an upcoming book tentatively titled “High Expectations: A History of Cancer Therapies.”

Kutcher read excerpts from the chapter during the presentation.

The book will feature separate authors discussing different facets of cancer studies over the last century.

Kutcher’s portion chronicles the early history of the U.S. war on cancer.

“I am not prescribing anything we need to do,” Kutcher said. “I am trying to bring out the character of the arguments about studying and trying to cure cancer.”

He used a $35,000 grant endowed in 2010 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to finance research costs, according the Binghamton University.

Kutcher’s previous work includes “Contested Medicine: Cancer Research and the Military,” a book in which he addresses the ethical recruitment of human subjects for experimentation.

He holds doctorates in physics and history and philosophy of science.