Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Brave new cancer strategy

Yesterday an article appeared in the Globe and Mail about the Conservatives' brave new plans for a "national cancer strategy." This strategy is quoted as being, in essence, a "computerized internet database to keep Canadian doctors up to date on ways to treat the large array of cancers that afflict Canadians."

Buried down in the last paragraph, though, was this bit:

Dr. Whylie said that the consensus in the cancer-research community is that an additional $50-million per year in federal funding is needed for direct cancer research, but none of the political parties have promised such an increase.
Now, I'm hardly an expert on cancer research, but I do happen to know a cancer vaccine researcher at Washington D.C.'s National Institute of Health--a Canadian who's down there to gain experience she couldn't gain in her own country--rather intimately. I asked her about it, and she had this to say:
Although there are times when information about new possibilties for treatments are not disseminated widely enough or fast enough, it's hardly the biggest hurdle we have to overcome in our desire to save lives. I'm afraid I don't really see the benefit of spending a big chunk of money just on keeping track of what treatments are being used successfully. Clinical trials get published. And the U.S. has public databases with at least some of this information.
She then showed me their database. Now, like I said, I'm no expert, but it sure looks an awful lot like, um, a "computerized internet database to keep American doctors up to date on ways to treat the large array of cancers that afflict Americans" to me. Maybe the Conservatives think American cancer is different, somehow?

Let's recap, then: the Conservatives are faced with the task of improving on the Liberals' dismal performance in the fight against cancer. They could choose to spend money on a public database that duplicates something already being done by our biggest trading partner, or they could put that same money toward an attempt at adequately funding cancer research. They choose the former.

*blink* *blink*

No wonder Canada's best cancer researchers are finding jobs in other countries.


Mike said...

I am a Software Engineer and a few years ago, I worked on a program with 4 other people that created a "Treatment Outcome Surviellence" program for childhood cancer. It was a passive surveillence program that could easily be used for any cancer, childhood or otherwise and could be upgraded to active surviellence (near real-time vs filling out the information from records that could be years old).

The whole thing cost Health Canada about $200 K.

In otherwords, the CPC is promising to spend millions on something that Health Canada already owns and bought for less than a 1/4 million.

And they own the IP to the code so they can change, sell or update it any time and any way they like.

Yeah, lets send the money on actual research...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Gah. I'd love to hear what the Conservatives would say to that!