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On January 17, 1961, Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States gave his Farewell Address. This remarkable 16 minute speech is now known as his warning against the Military Industrial Complex. However, as he stated in his speech, this was the first of his two warnings. His more famous admonition for the USA to guard against sacrificing its ideals in the build up of a peacetime war force is followed by his second admonition. Those words are quoted in the paragraphs below.

“Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

Without question, Eisenhower’s concern that an increasing amount of research would be “conducted for, by, or at the direction of the federal government” has turned out to be true. Much of this research has advanced science. In the biomedical field, this research has driven a great increase in the knowledge of basic cancer principles and the financing of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. All of these activities benefit the patient of tomorrow.

It is time now for a part of the benefit of research to go to the individual patient of today.  However this new way of doing things—this benefit to the individual—will require the financing to come from that individual, at least for the time being.

Of course, Eisenhower is no longer here, but I think he would approve of a new industry being created and payed for from the pockets of individuals. After all, we are still a great republic operating with an economy based on capitalism, which represents the continuing competitive efforts of individuals to improve what has come before.

Individuals can now save their living tumor tissue. It can be studied outside the body in order to inform better clinical decision making before the patient receives subsequent therapy. Patients can expect, in so doing, benefit to be returned in the form of longer lives and less toxicities.

Ken Dixon