In 2007, the University of Alberta announced an exciting discovery at the forefront of cancer research. A molecule known as DCA, which naturally occurs in cells, could be manipulated to make cancer cells regress; a promising lead on the cure to what many have called the plague of modern civilization. But the hopeful news didn’t make headlines, and only sporadic updates were posted on the U of A website. This past weekend, however, an old HubPages recap of the study suddenly caught the attention of social media, even going viral on Facebook and Twitter. But why now? The recap suggests that the study wasn’t publicized or funded because the proposed cure can’t be patented, (and therefore isn’t profitable for pharmaceutical companies).
Just because a certain remedy isn’t available after one successful study doesn’t necessarily mean a conspiracy’s afoot, but if a proposed treatment doesn’t look profitable, pharmaceutical companies aren’t likely to pour their resources into it, either. However, people are dying in record numbers, and any new treatment should be explored to its full extent. In 2010, the Canadian Cancer Society stated that an estimated 173,800 new cases of cancer and 76,200 cancer-deaths occurred in Canada alone. I have to wonder how many of those people would gladly volunteer to be so-called guinea pigs in such an experiment which claims to have no negative side effects and can give their futures back. Comments on the opinionated Hubpages recap range from 4 years ago to 4 seconds ago, showing that people are still greatly interested in hearing about the outcome of this study, and want to know what they can expect in the fight against cancer.
Last year, the U of A website released a statement that, after two years of experiments on cancer patients, their treatment showed promise, but still required further testing and funding. They also noted, interestingly enough, that while they received some government funding, their research was made possible “largely by public donations, including philanthropic foundations and individuals.” No pharmaceutical companies, which understandably could provide the largest investments, were listed as funders.
Social media has outed the topic, but it has yet to scrounge together funding to support further research. When you boil this controversy down to its base elements, pharmaceutical companies, no matter what they tell you, are a business, with a focus on dividends and profits. That’s not a slight against “big Pharma,” because that statement is true of all businesses in a capitalistic society. However, when are we going to put health above money? People before profit? A long life before a long bankroll? “Big Pharma” companies are made up of people too, who suffer through cancer in their families just like we do, and neither they nor I want to die the suffering death that cancer, in many cases, can cause. Corporations don’t exist without the people behind them, and hopefully that focus will factor into their spending now that social media is holding their feet to the fire.
I think it’s brilliant that individuals and public donations largely funded the study, as it shows that “the people united will never be defeated,” but a united people can’t do it alone. We are galvanized in the search for a cure, now we need further help.
If social media can bring this study to light, perhaps it can also find funding as well. If it means digging into my own pocket, so be it. “Helping to Cure cancer” is something I’d love to put in my Facebook and Twitter bio, and definitely deserves a re-tweet.