• U.S.

Medicine: Cancer Army

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Three hundred thousand U. S. women have cancer. Some 80,000 will die of it this year. Some 40,000 need not die of it if they take or have taken advantage of the resources which Medicine has so far marshaled against the nation’s second most common cause of death. About six women get cancer to every five men. The most prevalent forms of cancer in women, however, are cancer of the breast and womb, which are the most curable. To bring this message of warning and hope to the 45,000,000 U. S. women was this week the purpose of the American Society for the Control of Cancer’s “Women’s Army” of 2,000,000 women operate in 39 States under Director Clarence Cook Little. This is the largest movement ever loosed against disease.

More than any other disease, cancer has the imagination of mankind. It slowly, painfully, and science does yet know its causes or mechanism.

Justifiable, therefore, was the emotion which surcharged Dr. Little’s war cry last week:

“This is merely the beginning. It will be great fight — a war worth waging. Lives by the thousand will be prolonged or saved—some byaroused personal courage, others by the spread of knowledge to those who need it. There is no longer need to fight cancer alone. Hundreds of thousands will share the burden, understand the sufferings which too long have seared the very soul of men and women. At a time when our country is inclined to develop class, race or creed consciousness or hatreds the menace of a common enemy and the inspiration of fighting it together may have a sorely needed and deeply significant religious and moral force. Research, diagnosis and treatment will all reflect the increased interest and activity.

Doctors will have a better chance of seeing early cancer while its curable. It is a hard tast requiring patience—trench warfare with a vengeance against a ruthless killer. No quarter need be given or asked.”

Cancer Problem. A cancer is an abnormal growth which may occur anywhere in the body, which destroys adjoining normal tissue, and which may send portions of itself to take root and grow in distant vital organs.

Investigators have at last got a glimmering of what causes cancer. Some people in herit a susceptibility to the disease. But they do not develop cancer unless some susceptible part of the body is unduly irritated by: 1) carcinogenic chemicals, 2) physical agents (X-rays, strong sun light, repeated abrasions as from a jagged tooth), 3) possibly, biological products produced by parasites. Carcinogenic chemicals occur in coal tar, bile acids, female sex hormone. However, no one under stands the exact way in which any of these causes cancer in those individuals who are susceptible to cancer.

Few general practitioners can recognize the early signs of cancer when they see them. But they have been taught — as the Women’s Field Army is out to teach women — to suspect the possibilities of cancer when a sore refuses to heal; when a lump forms in any part of the body, particularly the breast; when the uterus bleeds persistently or irregularly.

Medical Help, Specialists in the diagnosis of cancer are now within the reach of every U. S. citizen. Some are pathologists who analyze bits of tissue cut from suspected cancers. Others are X-ray specialists who interpret radiograms of suspected bones and internal organs. To extend this diagnostic knowledge, Dr. Francis Carter Wood, director of Columbia University’s Cancer Institute, is preparing a Diagnostic Atlas of Tumors which should be ready next year. The International Union Against Cancer sponsored the work. The Chemical Foundation pays expenses, and will market the finished atlas for $8.

Treatment of cancer is not so progressive. Five thousand years ago Egyptian doctors used caustic salves to destroy cancers and scalpels to excise them. To day surgeons use scalpels and electric cauteries to excise cancers. And radiologists use X-rays and radium to destroy them. An occasional patient recovers after treatment with colloidal lead or the germ of erysipelas, or with this or that sub stance. But so do some patients who get no treatment whatsoever.

There are seven hospitals in the U. S. which specialize only in cancer cases.

These are : in Manhattan, Memorial, and N. Y. City Cancer Institute; in St. Louis, Barnard Free Skin and Cancer; in Buffalo, State Institute for the Study of Malignant Disease; in Philadelphia, Oncologic; in Boston, Huntington Memorial; in Wrentham, Mass., Pondville. In addition there are 200 hospitals certified by the American College of Surgeons as having excellent cancer clinics.

In preparation is the very first treatise on the Treatment of Cancer & Allied Diseases. Editors George Thomas Pack and Edward M. Livingston, both of Manhattan, started the work two years ago, required the help of 140 international authorities, are filling 1,600 to 2,000 printed pages, may get through this autumn and give publisher Paul B. Hoeber of Manhattan opportunity to market the volume for about $20.

Control of Cancer began in a small way in 1913 when a few doctors organized the American Society for the Control of Cancer. Campaigns to teach people that cancer was not a “shameful” disease and to teach doctors to look for cancers gradually spread over the country under direction of Dr. George Albert Soper, sanitary engineer. Then Mrs. Robert G. Mead. Manhattan socialite, raised an endowment of $1,000,000 and Dr. Little, a geneticist who had recently resigned from the presidency of the University of Michigan, took charge in 1929.

Dr. Little saw that before he set out to propagandize laymen on cancer control, more doctors would have to be persuaded that an informed layman was a good patient. He also had to encourage more doctors to learn more about a disease whose treatment was plagued with tragic and humiliating failures. Three years ago, after many an appearance on the rostrum of many a medical and biological society, Dr. Little felt he had the doctors back of him. Logically, his next attack was on that group of cancer sufferers which is most numerous and amenable to treatment: “If we can get all the women talking about cancer,” said he three years ago and again last week, “we will be in a fair way of controlling this tremendous cause of suffering and death.” Women’s Field Army— The biggest organization of U. S. women is the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Accordingly, Dr. Little sought out Mrs— Grace Morrison Poole of Brockton, Mass.; long a prominent clubwoman and president of the Federation in 1932. She was glad to interrupt her work as dean of progressive Stoneleigh College at Rye, N. H., where she trains girls to become businesswomen, to join Dr. Little’s crusade. Because she is magnetic and persuasive (Republicans used her to campaign in New Hampshire for Landon), Mrs. Poole has been invaluable in overcoming the not inconsiderable opposition of cancerphobes, getting club leaders to cooperate with leaders of medical societies in sponsoring a forthcoming series of lectures about cancer.

To be Field Representative of the Field Army, Dr. Little chose Mrs. Marjorie B. Illig of Onset, Mass., wife of a General Motors executive and before her marriage a trained radiologist working for cancer specialists in Massachusetts. Mrs. Illig has the advantage of being not only a clubwoman in charge of the Federation’s division of health, but a qualified speaker on cancer prevention.

Organized by states and counties shoulder-to-shoulder with the state and county medical societies, the American Society for the Control of Cancer’s women’s army is first going to collect $1 from at least 2,000,000 U. S. women. With this $2,000,000 the army will finance mass meetings, lectures, radio broadcasts, newspaper and magazine articles, print and distribute tons of literature urging all U. S. women to be on the alert for unusual lumps, sores, bleeding, and telling them what to do about these symptoms if they occur.

Cancer Control. So eager was the U. S. medical profession to cooperate in this anti-cancer campaign that last week the four important U. S. organizations dealing with cancer—the American College of Surgeons, the American Roentgen Ray Society, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the American Society for the Control of Cancer—formed a Cancer Council, which will answer any reasonable question about cancer sent by doctor or layman to headquarters at No. 1250 Sixth Avenue, New York City. Members of this Cancer Council are: Dr. Frank E. Adair, Memorial Hospital, New York, N. Y.

Dr. Karl Kornblum, Graduate Hospital, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.

Dr. James B. Murphy, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York N. Y.

Dr. James Ewing, Memorial Hospital, New York, N. Y.

Dr. Burton T. Simpson, State Institute for the Study of Malignant Disease, Buffalo, N. Y.

Dr. C. C. Little, Jackson Memorial Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Me.

Clarence Cook Little’s grandfather was James Lovell Little, a dominating Massachusetts businessman who made Father James Lovell Jr. quit studying architecture at Harvard and go into business.

James Lovell Little Jr. compensated for this transfer by taking up natural sciences as a hobby. He was the first man in the U. S. to breed Scottish terriers. He also bred cocker and clumber spaniels, dachshunds. Son Clarence Cook took up the avocation, now breeds Scotties and dachshunds in his own Newcastle Kennels at Bar Harbor, and is a qualified judge of nine other breeds.

“Pete” Little was practically born a geneticist. He received a pair of pigeons when he was 3 years old. By the time he was 7 he bred a pair which won a first prize. Then he took up mice. He inbred his first pair of mice, brown brother and sister, in 1909 when he was a Harvard junior, and has been inbreeding their progeny ever since. The herd accompanied him to Cold Spring Harbor, L. I. when he became assistant director of the Carnegie Institution’s Station for Experimental Evolution (1919), to Orono, Me.

when he became president of the University of Maine (1922), to Ann Arbor, Mich, when he became president of the University of Michigan (1925), to Bar Harbor, where he became director of the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in 1929. At Bar Harbor, in a small building whose solid brick walls exclude stray mice, he produces 150,000 mice a year, sells 50,000 to other scientific institutions for research, anatomizes 25,000 to analyze their inherited characteristics, especially their susceptibility to cancer.

His own mice were his particular solace when he was president of the University of Michigan. After their initial enthusiasm for the youngest university president of his time, the regents of the University heckled him for his liberal views on education and student behavior, and for his refusal to let Michigan politicians dispose of University money. Disappointed, he resigned after four years. Almost immediately he divorced his wife, daughter of a Boston architect, on grounds of cruelty and technical desertion. He gave her and their two sons and daughter every dollar he owned (about $100,000), and at the age of 41 started life anew.

Roscoe Bradbury Jackson Memorial Laboratory, founded at Dr. Little’s suggestion, in memory of the late organizer and president of Hudson Motor Co., offered him a $3,000-a-year job as director.

Within a few weeks trustees of the American Society for the Control of Cancer, remembering that just after he got out of college he spent four years with the Harvard Cancer Commission, that he was one of the world’s authorities on the inherited susceptibility to cancer and a good executive wanting an extra job, hired him as managing director. The Society pays him $9,000 a year (out of which he must pay his traveling expenses), does not object to his work at Jackson Memorial. This renewed security enabled Dr. Little to marry a Phi Beta Kappa and Master of Arts who had been an enthusiastic laboratory assistant to him at Maine and a loyal supervisor of women students at Michigan. Mrs. Little No. 2 still takes an intense extramural interest in the mice at Bar Harbor, besides managing the modest house near the Bar Harbor water front in which they live with their children: Richard Warren, 5, and Laura Revere, 3.

Back in Bar Harbor last week, preparing for a big swing around the country when the Women’s Field Army drive begins this week, Dr. Little resonantly declared of his new task: “Why do I feel so deeply about it? Because I have both experienced, understood and, I am afraid, caused too much suffering, and hate it. Because my own father died as a result of cancer. Because perhaps whatever ancestral desire I have to explore the unknown is appealed to by the research work and the wish to be a ‘crusader,’ which almost all of us have, is given a chance to express itself. Finally, because I believe that Americans will be happier and saner if they combine in fighting a scourge like cancer than they will be if they continue to fight each other for money and power.”

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