I’m Sorry, Steve Jobs: We Could Have Saved You

Siddhartha Mukherjee in Newsweek:

SidWe are failing to treat and prevent cancer—even as the promise of life-saving remedies await us. On the anniversary of Steve Jobs’s death, leading oncologist and the author of The Emperor of All Maladies Siddhartha Mukherjee explains how we failed to save an icon and why we will lose so many more lives if we do not give cancer research the funding it deserves. In Oct. 5, the night that Steve Jobs died, I ascended 30,000 feet into the thin air above New York on a flight to California. On my lap was a stash of scientific papers. I was reading and taking notes—where else?—on an iPad.

Jobs’s death—like a generational Rorschach test—had provoked complex reactions within each of us. There was grief in abundance, of course, admixed with a sense of loss, with desolation and nostalgia. Outside the Apple store in SoHo, New York, that evening, there were bouquets of white gerberas and red roses. Someone had left a bushel of apples by the doorstep and a sign that read “I-miss …” I missed Jobs, too—but I also felt a personal embarrassment in his death. I am an oncologist and a cancer researcher. I felt as if my profession, my discipline, and my generation had let him down. Steve Jobs had promised—and then delivered—life-altering technologies. Had we, in all honesty, given him any such life-altering technologies back? I ask the question in all earnestness. Jobs’s life ended because of a form of pancreatic cancer called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, or PNET. These tumors are fleetingly rare: about five in every million men and women are diagnosed with PNETs each year. Deciphering the biology of rare cancers is often challenging. But the past five years have revealed extraordinary insights into the biology of some rare cancers—and PNETs, coincidentally enough, have led part of that charge. By comparing several such tumors, scientists are beginning to understand the biology of these peculiar tumors.

More here.