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11/04/2019

Dr. Azra Raza Discusses Her Recently Published Book, "The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursing Cancer to the Last" (November 1st)

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Dr. Azra Raza's recently published book, The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursing Cancer to the Last, has been described as a "searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treat cancer, how we can do better, and why we must."  It has been termed "a clarion call . . . [that] repudiates the approach . . . that biomedical science has taken to attempt to find new treatments and curers."  The lack of progress in treating cancer is "an embarrassment" and "equally embarrassing is the arrogant denial of that embarrassment."  We spend over $150 billion annually on treating cancer and a patient diagnosed today is as likely to die from the diagnosis as a patient diagnosed 50 years ago.   

During this 35 minute conversation Dr Raza begins by discussing what causes cancer (we do not know or know completely).  She moreover discusses the urgent need for a new cancer research paradigm, i.e., the current use of tissue culture cell lines and mouse models have proven to be inadequate.  She also argues cancer researchers need to spend less time chasing the last cancer cell and instead ID the first cancer cell, i.e., we should place greater emphasis on early detection.  She explains her criticisms of the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government funding in researching effective cancer treatments.  Dr Raza also explains her relationship with her patients, her belief treating oncologists need to develop empathic relationships with their patients and she notes her view regarding palliative sedation. 

Dr. Raza is the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of the MDS Center at Columbia University in New York.  She started her research in Myelodisplastic Syndromes (MDS) in 1982 and moved to Rush University, Chicago, Illinois in 1992, where she was the Charles Arthur Weaver Professor in Oncology and Director, Division of Myeloid Diseases.  The MDS ArazaProgram, along with a Tissue Repository containing more than 50,000 samples from MDS and acute leukemia patients was successfully relocated to the University of Massachusetts in 2004 and to Columbia University in 2010.  Before moving to New York, Dr. Raza was the Chief of Hematology Oncology and the Gladys Smith Martin Professor of Oncology at the University of Massachussetts in Worcester.  She has published the results of her research and clinical trials in numerous, peer reviewed journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Blood, Cancer, Cancer Research, British Journal of Hematology, Leukemia, and Leukemia Research. Dr. Raza serves on numerous national and international panels as a reviewer, consultant and adviser and is the recipient of a numerous of awards including the First Lifetime Achievement Award from APPNA, Award in Academic Excellence twice (2007 and 2010) from Dogana and The Hope Award in Cancer Research. 

For more on The First Cell go to: https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/azra-raza/the-first-cell/9781541699526/

Dr Raza's related 2006 3 Quarks Daily post, "Rx: Reductionist Vs.. Pluralist Views of Cancer," is at: https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2006/01/rx.html.

Per my mention of Thomas Kuhn's seminal, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the Wiki overview is at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions

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