Is Cancer Research Staying True to Terry Fox's Legacy?

By Rick Hendershot

Every September, millions of Canadians pay particular respect to Terry Fox, a truly exceptional young man. Terry was the young Canadian who wanted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research after having his leg amputated due to cancer. This race, known as the “Marathon of Hope,” took place in the spring and summer of 1980.

Terry was forced to abandon his trek near Thunder Bay, Ontario on September 1, 1980, after 142 days of running 26 miles each day (a marathon a day). His cancer had resurfaced, this time in his lungs.

Terry died of cancer some months later, when he was only 22 years old.

Running in support of “Cancer Research”

The Marathon of Hope’s initial goal was to raise around $25 million — one dollar for every Canadian at the time. Terry’s objective was accomplished before he died, thanks to donations and promises made throughout his run and a telethon staged shortly after he was forced to call it quits.

Terry had become one of Canada’s most important and inspirational heroes in that brief spring and summer of 1980, and the memory of the “Marathon of Hope” has carried on for 25 years, growing in appeal and scope each year.

The yearly “Terry Fox Run” is still held in Canada, the United States, and other nations across the world. According to current estimates, the Terry Fox Run has raised over $400 million for cancer research.

Are we any closer after $400 million?

Terry Fox is the ultimate hero for Canadians, and it would be sacrilegious to dare suggest that all is not well with the Marathon of Hope and the “cancer research” that it supports.

Nonetheless, I believe Terry would be astonished that we are not further along the road to a “cure for cancer” after raising and spending such an incredible amount of money to that cause.

The sums raised in the United States and other nations are even more startling, and despite the fact that there are few actual results to show for the “research,” people continue to fork out money because they have been promised, and continue to believe, that a cure is “just around the corner.”

Is it feasible that the cancer research industry has devolved into a lucrative gravy train for the thousands of fund raisers and researchers who rely on it for a living?

Some critics have even claimed that the “cancer industry” has devolved into nothing more than a front for the pharmaceutical and chemical companies. ( American Cancer Society: The World’s Wealthiest “Nonprofit” Institution is an intriguing essay that provides a critical study of the America Cancer Society.

We should ask legitimate questions.

At the very least, it is reasonable to ask, “How much ‘treatment’ has all this money purchased us?”

I’m not sure. But I doubt it will be much. I may be hopelessly behind the times, but it appears to me that most of the “cures” being utilized today are very similar to those employed in 1980 – surgery, chemo-therapy, and radiation.

Of course, we’re informed that cancer cure rates have skyrocketed. However, these figures are easily manipulated, and supporters of the current research system have such a great interest in pointing to their success that their statements must be treated with caution.

This comment from a 1998 article titled “Cancer Research — a Super Fraud?” underscores this skepticism. Commenting on the National Cancer Program in the United States “My overall evaluation is that the national cancer program must be regarded a qualified failure,” Dr. John Bailer remarked. Dr. John Bailer, who worked for the National Cancer Institute for 20 years and was the journal’s editor. “The American Cancer Society’s five-year survival figures are quite deceiving,” Dr. Bailer adds. They now count things that aren’t cancer, and because we can diagnose the disease at an earlier stage, people appear to live longer lives. Our entire cancer research effort over the last 20 years has been a complete disaster. Cancer is killing more people over the age of 30 than ever before… Women with minor or benign disorders are increasingly being included in statistics and described as ‘cured.’ When government officials cite to cancer survival rates and claim to be winning the war, they are misusing such rates.”


Many individuals see comments like this as an insult to the millions of people who have placed their trust in a high-tech cancer cure. Many individuals are afraid to criticize the established quo because we revere guys like Terry Fox.

But I wonder if a 22-year-old with the innocence and fortitude to attempt the inconceivable feat of running 5,000 miles on one leg would be satisfied with the state of affairs now.

Would Terry Fox be pleased to learn that certain cancer society branches in the United States only allocate only 10% of the monies they raise to providing cancer services? Would he comprehend why large sections of cancer society funds are spent on purchasing real estate and buildings rather than assisting cancer patients and conducting research into the causes of cancer?

Would he be delighted to learn that CEOs with ties to medicine and chemical corporations sit on the boards of the major cancer organizations?

Would he find solace in the fact that well-known environmental causes of cancer are mostly disregarded by researchers because they frequently include food, chemical, and medication companies?

Would he be relieved that the efforts of researchers and fund raisers may be impeding true progress in the fight against cancer because these researchers are frequently employed by firms that profit from the sale of cancer-causing products?

When Terry was traveling through Ontario in 1980, a bystander inquired if he believed he was being used. “I want them to use me more,” Terry replied.

I’m not sure the current state of affairs is what he had in mind.

Rick Hendershot is a writer and The Linknet Publishing Network’s online publisher.

Other sources critical of the cancer research industry: –

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