Azra Raza is the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of the Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) Center at Columbia University in New York, a practicing oncologist, and author of The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last. She joins the show to discuss several incredibly important topics, including the following:
“Today…we are curing 68% of the cancers, and that’s great, but what are we curing them with? Slash, poison, burn: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation…the same treatments we were using…with a few rare exceptions…it is shocking that in this day and age of such advanced technology we are using such paleolithic caveman treatments...” says Dr. Raza, who has devoted over 30 years of her life to the early detection and prevention of cancer while working firsthand with countless cancer patients.
She continues by explaining that these treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) were initially given as stop-gap measures, and despite the efforts of thousands of scientists over the course of the last several decades, a more successful treatment has not been developed. Why? According to Dr. Raza, a big part of the answer has to do with the fact that cancer is heterogeneous; it’s a moving target that’s continually evolving and picking up new mutations.
So, what’s the solution? In Dr. Raza’s view, the solution is early detection and prevention of the development of cancer, rather than attempts to treat it once it’s already advanced, and she emphasizes the need to use every available resource to this end, including genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics. She explains the financial burden of pursuing this research pathway, how she’s trying to overcome it, and so much more.
“On a daily basis I am seeing patients, and it is their stories that are the motivation for me…I am looking at everything through the prism of human anguish…to separate human suffering and pain from the need to find the answers is criminal, because the motivation has to be…to reduce human suffering.”
Tune in to hear the full conversation, and visit https://azraraza.com/ to learn more about Dr. Raza’s mission.