M.R. Narayan Swamy in The Wire:
US-based Azra Raza, a respected oncologist of Pakistani origin, has been treating cancer patients for around two decades. Her grouse, articulated in her book, The First Cell, is that most new drugs add mere months to one’s life, that too at great physical, financial and emotional cost. In her telling, the reason the war on cancer has reached an impasse is because doctors are essentially trying to protect the last cell, instead of checking the disease at birth. This has to change, and now, Raza writes with an evangelist’s passion.
Raza is a specialist in a bone marrow preleukemic condition called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which develops in a third of MDS patients. The treatment landscape for AML has not evolved much in the last half century, nor in fact has it vis-à-vis most common types of cancers. With minor variations, the slash-poison-burn approach to treating cancer remains the staple: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. No one, she says, is winning the war on cancer. Claims to the contrary are mostly hype.