Since the 1960s, experts have predicted that we are on the verge of curing cancer. The purpose of this paper is to explore the obstacles to progress, and to propose policies that will lead more quickly to more success.
To speed future cures, we need to look at the traits, and methods of those innovative medical entrepreneurs who achieved breakthroughs in the past, and learn what institutions and policies enabled, or blocked, their progress.
Breakthrough innovators tend to be less-credentialed outsiders who “see what others do not see,” often by nimble and persistent pursuit of serendipitous discoveries or slow hunches. For example, Freireich and DeVita were less-credentialed outsiders. Freireich cured childhood leukemia and DeVita cured Hodgkin’s lymphoma, by pursuing nimble trial-and-error experimentation in their anti-cancer chemotherapy cocktails. Min Chiu Li pursued his slow hunch that his patients would benefit from longer chemotherapy than the mandated National Cancer Institute protocol allowed. He was fired, but his patients were cured. Today, FDA-mandated regulatory protocols, often defended as applications of the precautionary principle, greatly restrict innovative medical entrepreneurs, thereby delaying cancer cures and costing lives.
The paper proposes a new approach to medical innovation, allowing cancer researchers to engage in trial-and-error experiments that follow up on serendipitous discoveries and plausible hunches. The result will be more cures and longer lives.
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