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Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer

March 03, 2016

Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer? Would emphasizing prevention bring about more return on investment? Should we channel what we are learning about precision medicine and the genome into cancer prevention, not treatment alone?

Many people believe that the time is right for another big push to defeat cancer, including President Obama, who called for a major cancer-fighting campaign in his final State of the Union address. But in the latest paper, "Targeting the Cancer Moonshot" in JAMA Oncology, this kind of effort will never cure cancer without public health and prevention.

While there have been some important and notable cures for certain types of cancer in the last half-century, Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD, Myron M. Studner Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, and co-author Cary P. Gross, MD, Yale University School of Medicine, drive home the point that these cures are responsible for only a small fraction of improvements in mortality.

"The true successes of cancer have been made in prevention," notes Dr. Neugut, who is also professor of Medicine at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Center at Columbia. In particular, lung cancer rates have plummeted in the U.S.--but from the decline in smoking rates. There are other cancer success stories as well--from screening techniques for colon and cervical cancer to vaccines that will help wipe out the latter disease completely.
-end-
The authors raise fresh and important questions in the article published online.

About Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.mailman.columbia.edu

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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