Dr. Azra Raza on the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer
In Conversation with Roxanne Coady
on the Just the Right Book Podcast
According to the NIH, there has been a seventy-percent decline annually in the death rate from cardiovascular disease in the last fifty years and a one percent decline annually in the death rate from cancer over the last fifty years. How can this be when we keep hearing about great new drug discoveries and immunotherapy advances? And if true, isn’t there another way to approach the nightmare that is cancer?
This week on Just the Right Book, Dr. Azra Raza join Roxanne Coady to discuss her latest book, The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, out now from Basic Books.
From the episode:
Dr. Azra Raza: One of the reasons I wrote this book is because of the confusions that I am feeling as a doctor and as someone who took care of her own husband, who was dying and who died of cancer. It has taken so many years for me to even process this, and I am not sure I understand it completely.
I do know one thing: I have been treating acute myeloid leukemia since 1977. I was using two drugs. Today in 2020, I’m using the same drugs. So imagine the number of conversations I’ve had with thousands of patients over the last four decades saying the same things about what benefits to expect, what side effects and toxicity they can anticipate, and then walking them, most of them, to their deaths throughout.
But yet, if I have acute leukemia today, I would take the same treatment, because I will still hope that I am one of the twenty percent or thirty percent who is going to respond and have a long term. I mean, we are all humans. We want to give ourselves the best chance because think about it. What is there to lose? I’m going to die anyway. Why not give myself even one in a million chance?
Azra Raza is the Chan Soon-Shiong professor of medicine and the director of the MDS Center at Columbia University. In addition to publishing widely in basic and clinical cancer research, Raza is also the coeditor of the highly acclaimed website 3QuarksDaily.com. She lives in New York City.
Roxanne Coady is owner of R.J. Julia, one of the leading independent booksellers in the United States, which—since 1990—has been a community resource not only for books, but for the exchange of ideas. In 1998, Coady founded Read To Grow, which provides books for newborns and children and encourages parents to read to their children from birth. RTG has distributed over 1.5 million books.