Finley: Let's kill cancer together

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

I’ve spent much of the past week sitting at my cousin’s bedside in the small Kentucky hospital where he is struggling with colon cancer.

It’s the same disease that killed my father 40 years ago, the same disease that took my friend Tony Snow 10 years ago. And now it’s consuming the finest man I’ve ever known. Johnny Sells has been my older brother, my role model, my best friend for all of my life. It feels so helpless to watch as cancer threatens to take him away.

Yes, cancer sucks. And cancer infuriates. And it breaks hearts. And we’ve put up with it long enough. My father was 51 when he succumbed to colon cancer, and I was convinced that by the time I reached that age we would have conquered that and most other forms of cancer.

I’m well beyond that milestone, and yet in every hospital in every town in America people are doing the same thing I am, sitting in sterile rooms staring at blinking lights and digital readouts and watching as cancer robs them of the years they counted on sharing with the ones they love.

America needs a moon shot-style campaign to rid itself of this scourge that has touched every family.

We now have a promising launching pad. Breakthroughs in immunotherapy treatment have medical researchers using the other C-word — cure. Clinical trials are producing amazing results for some of the more deadly types of cancers.

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to attack only the cancer cells. That’s a major advancement over chemotherapy and radiation, which destroy the good along with the bad and often do as much damage to the patient as the disease itself.

But there’s a catch. Immunotherapy treatment is enormously expensive. Some regimens can cost $10,000 a month. Bills can total more than $800,000 before certain cancers are vanquished.

We may be reaching a point at which we can routinely beat cancer, but can’t afford the fight.

America should decide now not to allow that to happen. We should commit whatever resources are necessary on a two-front mission.

First, we should spend all it takes to rapidly advance immunotherapy research, and make it available to cancer sufferers as quickly as possible. Then, we must make the treatment affordable for everyone.

That will require Congress and the president — and all Americans — to unite behind a common goal. And to sacrifice. The money we devote to winning the war on cancer won’t be available to spend on other things. And it may require new revenue. I’d gladly pay a cancer tax if I knew all the money was going to develop new treatments and make them accessible.

Or maybe we sell national cancer bonds. The payoff would be enormous — a cure for cancer would be worth trillions of dollars.

Rallying the nation to defeat cancer would be a way for President Donald Trump to hedge his legacy, to assure history would write for him at least one positive chapter.

It could also bring together a divided nation in a common cause, one that transcends our political and cultural differences.

Cancer is a universal enemy. Let’s kill it together.

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.