That Thing About the Hidden Cure for Cancer
Conspiracy theories about a cure for cancer have persisted for many years. Here are a few things to think about when asking the question, “why are they hiding the cure?”
Who “they” are
The general suggestion among those who claim a cure is being either suppressed or otherwise hidden from the public is that there is either a government conspiracy or collusion among the major pharmaceutical companies. Claims are made that this is because treatments, especially chemotherapy, are so profitable that drug manufacturers would lose money by curing cancer.
If this were true, of course, it would require thousands of people agreeing to keep the secret. All it would take was one person to leak the data and the cure would be revealed. Considering that there are numerous governments where socialized medicine would benefit drastically from having a cure — and these countries do have advanced research institutions, too — there would be a global rush to embrace such a remarkable treatment. Also considering that academic research institutions are constantly working with international partnerships, preventing information about an effective cancer cure from circulating would be impossible.
How much can money motivate?
Researchers, while certainly many are inspired by the promise of a financial windfall, tend to be driven more by their passion for science than the deep pockets of their employers. This can be clearly evidenced by looking at their salaries and comparing them to other fields. There is simply not enough cash that can be spread around to buy off all the researchers who would have access to data for a cure, if one existed.
But even assuming that the money to buy off all of the researchers was readily available and easily dispersed — and that there was not even one researcher with a conscience who would turn whistleblower — what would Big Pharma gain from hiding a cure?
Follow the money
Conspiracies often rely on the idea that someone is profiting and if you want to know who you just need to follow the trail of cash. But in this case, all the money leads to a cure.
There is a reason that the major pharmaceutical companies are always racing to be the first to find a new cure for any given disease. The patent would be supremely valuable. While perhaps not all competing treatments to manage a patient’s condition would become obsolete, whichever company patents an effective cure would suddenly get the vast majority of the business related to that disease. That is to say, almost all the money being spent on medication for Disease X would go to that single company — and it would keep coming for quite a while, since diseases like cancer will continue to offer new patients every year. Imagine a stream of tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of fresh patients, and it is easy to see why Big Pharma wants that cure for guaranteed annual windfalls.
Nature cannot be patented
A final argument about why Big Pharma is hiding its cancer cure relies on the notion that it is impossible to profit from anything available in nature. Looking at the history of aspirin, of course, makes it quite clear that this logic is flawed. Aspirin, like many modern-day medications, was originally derived from the natural plant source, willow bark. Even cancer medications may originate from plants, like the chemotherapeutic agent Taxol which was synthesized from the Yew tree. And Big Pharma already has patented a key chemical component from cannabis, THC 9, which is available as the drug dronabinol (or Marinol).
Nature, it turns out, can lead to very effective and profitable patents. This does not prevent the use or sale of the original plants (where they are legal), but it does offer the opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to make improvements over nature’s raw form. By isolating the active chemical responsible for the desired effect, drug manufacturers are able to create medications that are considerably more effective and highly standardized, often making the chemicals much safer in controlled doses.
Careful analysis of claims that a cancer cure is being hidden will reveal that no such conspiracy can effectively exist. While noting that such claims are usually spread by individuals or organizations that stand to profit by offering “secrets” about the supposed cure, the notion of “following the money” will inevitably lead to some form of snake oil being peddled.
Science has a cure
Actually, medical science offers a number of existing cures already. Many patients benefit from the most obvious and direct cure: surgery. The combination of surgery and radiation actually cure a significant number of patients every year, when their various cancers are discovered early enough to be effectively removed. Even for many other patients, chemotherapy is offered as a curative agent.
Chemo cannot always be offered as a curative treatment; it is more effective on some types of cancers than others, and if the cancer has metastasized there is a good chance that it will need to be managed for the long term, but perhaps cannot be cured. Recently, immunotherapy has been shown to effectively cure some patients, as well. While immunotherapy does not work equally well for every patient, the science is still in relative infancy and new, innovative approaches are gaining traction. It could be that immunotherapy expands to be a defacto cure for numerous sub-types of cancer over the next few years.
It is easy to see why such conspiracy theories gain traction. Cancer is frightening. Pharmaceutical companies make a terrific and believable boogyman. But if we are going to beat the myriad of diseases that fall under the cancer umbrella — and these will require potentially hundreds of cures, not just one magic bullet — then we will have to do it through logic and legitimate science. By educating one another, we can move together to increase the funding and resources for cancer research. And with the passionate dedication of the thousands of men and women already working in the field, it is foreseeable that more cures will be found to add to the few that already are part of modern medical treatment.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.