Cancer is Toast, and Other Horrible Metaphors

[Please help my dear friend Lily raise money for this triathlon! Do it now! Do it for me!  Do it for yourselves. Do it for Johnny! It’s safe to say that if not for Lily, there would be no ABLC. She taught me almost everything that I know about WordPress and blogging, and kept me sane while we served as co-editors-in-chief at my former blog. If not for a year spent working with her (and the others) I wouldn’t exist — metaphorically speaking. [I know this bumps Lily up to the number one spot on The Permanently Aggrieveds’ Shitlist, and that is duly noted and need not be mentioned.] And for the rest of you, couldja help a sister’s sister out? -ABLxx]

I’ve lost more than my fair share of awesome people to various types of cancers, and I know many equally awesome others who have survived or are still struggling with it. The way I see it, cancer is…uh…a cancer, its own metaphor—a blight of suck on the bush of awesome (which was, incidentally, Angry Black Lady’s nickname in college (just “The Bush of Awesome”…not the suck-blight part)), and I’m done with it. I’ve hit the righteous indignation phase of my anger and I’m ready to rid the world of this plague pox cancer. Unfortunately, I’m also tired—tired but enthusiastic, and that beats energetic yet complacent any day, right? Work with me here.

So what can a person with a burning desire yet sluggish metabolism do to help cure cancer? Well, I’ll be honest here. It won’t involve running in a marathon, or a triathlon, or even running to the end of the block for a doughnut. I have to go with my strengths, and I happen to know that my strength is not my strength—nor is running, swimming or cycling long distances (granted, I procure a damned fine doughnut…if I pace myself), and while it might seem like I suck at most gerunds, I am pretty decent at volunteering and panhandling, which brings me to the point of all this.

My fabulous co-workers and friends who are good at those verbish nouns I listed before (I’d type them again, but I’d need a nap) have agreed to team up with Team In Training to participate in The Nation’s Triathlon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since they have agreed to do the sweating while I laugh at how they look in spandex, I’ve agreed to help them fundraise by forming what I call “Team Un-Training,” which mainly involves things like drinking beer, playing video games and poker, eating stuff (mainly food), and begging people like you. This way I can help cure cancer while maintaining the generous proportions of my ass and avoiding the unpleasantness of dehydration, muscle cramps and putting my face in the Potomac.

Here’s THE BIG FINISH: We have to raise a whopping $25,000, and are in dire need of your help. No donation is too small. Seriously $1 would be hugely appreciated (you should see what kind of gratitude larger donations will buy you), and it’s all very simple. You just have to click here. Even I have the energy to do that.  You’ll win the admiration and appreciation of me (granted that probably doesn’t mean much) and ABL, and you’ll feel good about yourself for doing it.

[cross-posted at ABLC]

40 replies
  1. 1
    Ryan S says:

    I’m in for a 25 dollar bill. My Grams passed away from myeloma a month ago. This is for you Grams.

  2. 2
    Poopyman says:

    Hey, we can’t contribute for a Team Member if we don’t know your real name. “ABL” isn’t up there. Just sayin’.

    I’m in for a few bucks. And for (checks wallet) 82 platelet donations. Not that that counts for your team, however.

  3. 3

    So what can a person with a burning desire yet sluggish metabolism do to help cure cancer?

    You can also register as a donor with Be The Match (formerly the National Marrow Donor Program). The registry needs as many potential donors as it can get. Signing up is quick and painless, and donating (should you be asked) is a life changing experience and not especially painful.

  4. 4
    Fred says:

    Hey btw, not too big a deal but turns out they may have found a cure for cancer. No I am not kidding. So why have you not heard about it you may be asking. Because Pharmaceutical companys stand to lose too much money because of it that’s why.

  5. 5
    Poopyman says:

    And predictably, Enormous Defense Contractor does not match contributions.


  6. 6

    If I had $10 for every time somebody claimed to have come up with a miracle cancer cure, I’d be able to retire. Curing cancer is hard, and anyone who says they’ve come up with a single, universal treatment is selling you something.

  7. 7
    Fred says:

    @Roger Moore: Did you actually read the link or are you just spewing?

    “Curing cancer is hard..”. Wow, that was quite an insight. I’m impressed.

  8. 8

    @Fred: Fred, no offense but a) it’s a very slow-loading site, and b) it’s “arbitrage magazine,” so you might forgive the skepticism.

  9. 9
    opal says:


    Arbitrage Magazine?

  10. 10
    Violet says:

    From Pharyngula at

    The simple summary is this: that claim is a lie. There have been no clinical trials of dichloroacetate (DCA) in cancer patients, so there is no basis for claiming they have a cure; some, but not all, cancers might respond in promising ways to the drug, while others are likely to be resistant (cancer is not one disease!); and there are potential neurotoxic side effects, especially when used in conjunction with other chemotherapies.

  11. 11
    gnomedad says:

    A commenter at Fred’s article links to P. Z. Myers on “Dicholoracetate and cancer”.

  12. 12

    Yes, I read the link, and it reads like a thinly re-written press release. I actually work in cancer research, so I have some fucking clue what I’m talking about when I say that curing cancer is hard. The basic problem is that “cancer” is not one single disease, or even a single class of diseases. It’s a huge range of different syndromes with very different properties affecting different parts of the body. There no good reason to think that there is a “cure for cancer” in the sense of a single thing that will cure every kind of cancer, and a ton of reasons to think that there will never be any such thing. Let’s just say that you never hear serious cancer researchers talking that way to their colleagues.

  13. 13

    @Roger Moore:

    I actually work in cancer research, so I have some fucking clue what I’m talking about when I say that curing cancer is hard.

    I’ve been reading a really good book about the 1918 flu epidemic, and even curing influenza is hard. People who talk like Fred are idiots.

  14. 14
    cyntax says:

    This is what the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society had to say about DCA:

    Well, DCA is back. And in fairness the science as reported is interesting. But it is the report that DCA appeared to have some benefit in the treatment of aggressive brain cancer that is probably going to get the headlines.

    In this study, the researchers looked at the impact of DCA on tumor cells from patients with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, which generally does not respond well to treatment.

    They performed some very sophisticated lab experiments which demonstrated the impact of DCA on the tumor cells from 49 patients with this cancer. The experiments—which are much too complicated to describe here—generally support the effectiveness of DCA at altering cell behavior.

    This research still needs lots of work before we know whether it works or doesn’t work, and whether it is really safe or not when given to patients with cancer under a variety of circumstances.

  15. 15
    The Moar You Know says:


    I did read the article. I also read this better one.

    No peer review.
    No clinical trials.
    No valid theory of action.
    No known or postulated effective dosage.
    No accounting for side effects.

    No thanks.

    BTW, you are a cruel monster for peddling false hope to desperate people. DIAF.

    EDIT: My uncle died two days ago from a brain tumor – the same kind of tumor where the people participating in clinical trials took DCA. They all died.

  16. 16
    Arclite says:

    “The Bush of Awesome”

    I wait in eager anticipation of the origin story of this nickname.

  17. 17
    Comrade Mary says:

    Is this where I take my magical Librarian Wand and whack deserving parties over the head? I can do that, you know.

    What is the ARBITRAGE magazine?
    The Arbitrage Magazine is Canada’s first, and North America’s largest, student-driven business magazine. We examine current business trends in a way that matters to student minds, by having interesting content that’s written and designed by students, for students. We work hard to make our content insightful and UN-boring.

    I think there’s a little youthful optimism, national chauvinism, and technocratic certitude behind that Arbitrage article.

    A breathless article in a student publication might inspire me to track down more authoritative sources (as some people have already done above), but I wouldn’t take it as scientific proof of anything.

  18. 18
    Arclite says:

    @Roger Moore: It seems that I’ve been seeing a bunch of different promising cancer treatments in the very early stages of research for a few years now. Usually in news articles on

    What are you guys looking at, and what seems to have potential?

  19. 19
    Fred says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Once again. Did………..the…..article!

    You can lead a horse to water….

    Should I draw simple pictures for you with 3D pop up characters? Since those other links would actually require you to look for the information.

  20. 20

    @Fred: I … couldn’t … get … the … article … to … load. Also, Arbitrage Magazine. Do I need to type slowly? thanks for the other links. I will look them up. Also, address some of the actual scientists who have challenged your point.

  21. 21
    opal says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Judging by recent Wiki edits, DCA advocates have been busy beavers lately.

  22. 22

    I actually work in a core facility and most of the people I work with are doing more basic research than clinical stuff. That said, our institution has tended to focus on biopharma stuff- we got into biopharma very early and have wanted to stick around- especially recombinant antibodies.

    We have some very interesting research in radioimmunotherapy, which involves attaching radioisotopes to cancer-specific antibodies. The antibodies act as a targeting mechanism for the radioisotopes. That can be used either for imaging with a gamma emitter or therapy with a beta or alpha emitter. The therapy is potentially very useful for metastatic cancer, since it lets you use a larger effective dose and will effectively target even very small metastases.

    ETA: My institution also has one of the largest and best bone marrow/hematopoetic stem cell transplant programs anywhere. But we can’t do transplants without donors, so sign up with Be The Match!

  23. 23
    Arclite says:

    @Roger Moore: That’s pretty cool. Getting an emitter attached to an antibody sounds hard. What kind of emitter would you use? Something like I-131?

  24. 24
    burnspbesq says:


    Maybe the reason we haven’t heard about it is that there aren’t any published peer-reviewed studies, because the science is shaky. Got links?

  25. 25

    They used to use radio iodine because it’s relatively easy to radioiodinate antibodies. They’ve moved away from it because the iodine heads straight for the thyroid if the antibody gets metabolized, which is really bad. Instead, they attach a very strong chelating agent to the antibody, which can then be loaded with a radio metal. It’s a very flexible approach, since the same basic chemistry will work with any antibody and the chelating agents can work with a very wide range of radiometals. They’re also working on various engineered antibody constructs that keep the antibody binding site and selectivity but eliminate the part that interacts with the rest of the immune system.

  26. 26
    Baron Jrod of Keeblershire says:

    @Fred: Way to ignore the mountain of evidence and arguments against your little miracle cure while focusing on the one poster who wasn’t able to read your precious article, you worthless sack of shit.

  27. 27
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Roger Moore:

    This is fascinating stuff, and you explain it very well so a totally stupid (in that I avoided the hard sciences like the plague, for the most part) history major such as myself can understand it.

    I can comprehend it, and while some of the terminology requires some reference (on my part), it’s still well written and relatively easy to follow.

  28. 28
  29. 29
    Arclite says:

    @Roger Moore: Yeah, thanks for explaining. We need breathless blog posts about this stuff in the media and social networking sites! I guess chelating agent-attached radioactive metal antibodies doesn’t have the same ring as DCA.

  30. 30
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    Happy to help a little bit. Good luck to you and Lily.


  31. 31
    sneezy says:

    I’m in (you had me at “granted, I procure a damned fine doughnut…if I pace myself”).

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:


    Looks like Fred’s breathless announcement is, um, not supported by the facts:

    Update, 16th May 2011: Several websites are reporting that last week ‘cancer was cured without anyone reporting on it’. This is not true and seems, we think, to have arisen from a misreading of the date on the most recent paper on DCA (which was published on May 12th 2010 – i.e. this time last year).

  33. 33

    @Villago Delenda Est: @Arclite:
    Thanks for the compliment. The longer I’ve worked in science, the more I’ve become convinced that explaining what we do to non-scientists is really essential to the whole enterprise. I’m sure Dr. Levenson would agree. I think the idea of radio labeled antibodies is easier to explain than some of the other stuff out there, but I spend more and more time trying to figure out how to explain scientific ideas clearly without compromising on accuracy. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding when you succeed.

  34. 34
    Arclite says:

    @Mnemosyne: Right what little testing has been done was limited and unscientific.

  35. 35
    mclaren says:

    Sadly, no progress has been made on curing cancer in the last 40 years. Nada. Zero. Nothing. Dick. Diddly, zip, zilch.

    From a doctor acquaintance of mine: “All cancer treatment today is palliative. If you get cancer, you’re going to die. All the medical community can do is bankrupt you in the process.”

  36. 36
    Lily the Pink says:

    For those who are wondering to whom to donate, you can donate to the team as a whole, rather than donating to one team member. When you do that, the donation gets split amongst all team members. Huge thanks to those who have already donated. You guys are amazingly awesome.

  37. 37
    BadgerState says:

    @mclaren: Wow! I guess I am terribly mistaken! Here I thought that I had cancer 8 years ago and was still living. Those Doctors must have lied to me when they said I was cancer free. Who to believe, some deluded poster or reality.

  38. 38
    Lily the Pink says:

    @BadgerState: 15 years cancer free here. I feel like medical science has failed me. ;)

  39. 39
    djesno says:

    I got nothin’ for ya, ABL, I’m living in a hotel with my wife and family….Goddammit, though, this is among the tightest writing I’ve seen from you! I’ve even let me ACLU membership lapse (still have the paper card in my wallet) because I’m so broke…If I had anything to give I’d do it on the writing alone. Oh, and FUCK CANCER. That is all. FUCK CANCER. Now, that is all.

    Plus, I need a cigarette.

  40. 40
    djesno says:

    *cough….hacking something up, sorry.

Comments are closed.