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Why should any cancer patient question the “standard of care?”  The standard of care is the thoroughly vetted and accepted way of providing cancer care.  Most of the time, it provides the best opportunities for cure and survival.  And, if this is so, is it not the best that can be done and something that we should always strive to adhere to?  Do not our society, the private insurance industry, and the governmental payers always put the interests of the individual first and foremost? 

My answer to these questions is, unfortunately, no.  I advance my personal views here as an individual, an American, a physician, and as one has seen too many of his patients die over too long a time.  I grew up in a time different than today.  In 1966 as a junior in high school I attended a national Key Club convention in New York City.  I remember the motto being “Inspire Individual Initiative” or something very similar to that.  Not that the US is not still the land of liberty and opportunity.  It is.  Still, the mood is different.  The concept of “society” has become more dominant than the concept of “individual.”  We, as individuals, have given more of our decision making over to society in many ways.  We depend on society much, much more to take care of us in troubled times.  We accept medical care as our right.  As taxpayers, we pay for the great majority of research done today in the cancer world.  And all these things are done for the public good.  Oftentimes, I see little wrong with this approach, when I see the things we can do for the majority of sick people with our “standard of care.”  But the danger of this approach in the world of cancer care is that we seem to have been lulled to sleep.

Standard of care is a dangerous approach to cancer care.

In the world of cancer care, in which each cancer and each cancer journey should be unique, we homogenize our diagnostic approaches and our therapies.  Even when we talk about “precision cancer care,” it almost always only means doing the standard tests to parse out what part of the population that individual resides in, not to test for that specific individual.  When the patient is up against it, when death awaits after our therapies have failed, we are too accepting of this population-based approach.  We, meaning the patients and the doctors both, just accept that our “standard of care” is the best we can do.  This is a real shame because it isn’t.  I believe that individuals lose their lives as a result.

Every cancer is unique; every cancer patient should be treated uniquely.

When I sit in my examining room with my patient who either has poor options or no options, I do not see the public.  I see one individual.  And I know that now we can offer more than we often do, but do not because the system does not pay for it.  Why?  Because we do not yet have the years of study to make a way of doing things routine, thereby failing to reach the plateau where the “standard of care” resides.

We are breaking down the barriers between cancer research and clinical care for individual patient care.

There are certainly times to be conservative and follow time honored practices.  But not when your life is on the line and there is no adequate therapy there for you, as is often the case in cancer care.  The fact is that we now have finally reached the time when we can bring cancer research and cancer clinical care under one umbrella.  If the individual patient does not take some control and responsibility for him or herself, the more effective diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities not unearthed by standard processes can be forever lost.     

Saving cancer patients from ineffective treatments and side effects.

So, this is why SpeciCare.  If you want to save your tumor tissue to test it to see if the drugs used in your body will work, you must pay to save your own tumor tissue.  To prove that saving and testing tumor tissue before giving the same drugs to the individual patient works, we must do that for the individual.  While we have several studies that show survival benefit by these approaches, it is still early.  We must convince you, the individual cancer patient, that we are working for you.  We are offering you that helping hand, where one was not there before.  We at SpeciCare are smack dab in the middle of demonstrating that saving our patient’s cancer tissue, thereafter, making it available for testing and study, actually helps our patients live longer.  

Do not throw away your chance for personalized cancer treatment.

The SpeciCare mission is to break down the barriers between cancer research and clinical care for individual cancer patient.  We offer the cancer patient a life preserver in stormy seas.  Reach out and grab it.  Save your tumor tissue.  Do not throw it away.  Ken Dixon