Don't Rob Kidney Cancer Patients Of Hope
In a New York Times Magazine article, Peter Singer asks: "You have advanced kidney cancer. It will kill you, probably in the next year or two. A drug called Sutent slows the spread of the cancer and may give you an extra six months, but at a cost of $54,000. Is a few more months worth that much?" [See original New York Times Magazine article: http://tinyurl.com/lb5ek2]
Well, Peter, if it's your life we're talking about, perhaps not. If it's mine, or any of the more than 50,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with kidney cancer this year, the answer is yes--it's worth every penny. Not only is your New York Times Magazine article filled with conclusions based on faulty math (that the Times was later forced to admit), but your reasoning appears to be based largely on rhetorical flourishes. This is a poor surrogate for the truth.
The examples you cite fail to include Katherine, a friend of mine who continues to live and work with metastatic kidney cancer after more than a decade. She's not a lone exception. Since my diagnosis of kidney cancer twenty years ago, I've helped hundreds of poor-prognosis cancer patients who have survived for many years with metastatic disease. Although the drug you mention, Sutent(R), may in fact have demonstrated a modest survival advantage in clinical data submitted to regulatory authorities, the reality is that some patients continue to thrive for years. With the recent approval of new therapeutics to treat kidney cancer, it is likely that survival will continue to be prolonged in many patients--perhaps, long enough for a cure to be found.
Surely, you will be among those who decry my use of anecdotal evidence in this missive. As, Gerald White, a Texan kidney cancer survivor says, "I'd rather be a live anecdote than a dead statistic."
Shame on you, Peter. I'm one survivor who's not prepared to be robbed of hope for my continued survival. And I'm surely not alone.
--Bill Bro, Survivor & CEO, Kidney Cancer Association