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The First Cell: And The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to The Last
Episode

Azra Raza, the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) Center at Columbia University

The First Cell: And The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to The Last

Today, let’s take a closer look at cancer and learn more about this disease from someone who has devoted her life to studying cancer. 

In this episode of the Outcomes Rocket, we have the privilege of hosting the outstanding Dr. Azra Raza, the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) Center at Columbia University. She is also the author of the book “The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last”.

Dr. Raza discusses the footprints of cancer and cancer-related statistics. She talks about her book The First Cell and how it advocates for the earliest possible detection and elimination of cancer at the first stage, first cell level. She calls out for a more holistic approach to cancer and emphasizes the need for better and advanced cancer treatment. 

Dr. Raza also shares her thoughts on reactive medicine, setbacks, changing paradigm, bringing the patient front and center into every conversation about cancer, and more!  There are so many things to learn from this amazing interview with Dr. Raza so please tune in!

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The First Cell: And The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to The Last

About Dr. Azra Raza

Dr. Azra Raza is the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of the MDS Center at Columbia University, a practicing oncologist seeing 30 to 40 cancer patients weekly. She also directs a basic cancer research lab with hundreds of original publications and high profile journals. She worked with President Clinton, designing the breakthrough developments in science and technology and with VP Joe Biden for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Her latest book, The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, was published in October 2019.

The First Cell: And The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to The Last with Azra Raza, the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) Center at Columbia Universi: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

The First Cell: And The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to The Last with Azra Raza, the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) Center at Columbia Universi: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody! Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Saul Marquez here and today I have the outstanding Dr. Azra Raza. She is the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of the MDS Center at Columbia University, a practicing oncologist seeing 30 to 40 cancer patients weekly. She also directs a basic cancer research lab with hundreds of original publications and high profile journals. She worked with President Clinton, designing the breakthrough developments in science and technology and with VP Joe Biden for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Her latest book, The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, was published in October 2019. Her life was devoted to early detection and prevention of cancer. It is my privilege to host her here on the podcast, Dr. Raza, welcome.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Thank you, Saul. Pleasure to be here.

Saul Marquez:
It’s a pleasure to have you here on the podcast. We’re going to have a wonderful conversation. I admire your work and your dedication to the cause of finding a cure for cancer. And so what is it that inspires your work in the field?

Dr. Azra Raza:
Well, Saul I grew up in Pakistan and right from a very early age, I have been curious about things very curious, especially about natural phenomena. So the stories are that when I was four years old, I was dirtying my knees because I’d be following ants around. By the time I was barely 12 and 13, I had read the origin of species. I was really into a lot of evolutionary biology, and at 14 15, I read Interpretation of Dreams by Freud. I was interested in all kinds of things. The problem is, had I gone to school in this country, I would have gone straight away in molecular biology, and I feel like marine biology or one of those related to evolution. However in Pakistan, Saul, we did not have graduate studies in science, so my only entry into science would be through medicine. So I entered medical school with the sole purpose of completing my degree and proceeding to the West so I could be trained in molecular biology and do something I wanted I thought I loved. Except in third year of med school, I saw my first patient and one look was all it took. One experience was enough to convince me that for the rest of my life, everything I do will have to be dedicated to reducing the suffering of these patients. Because you see the way cancer patients presented in Pakistan is, some of them would travel from hundreds of miles away from rural areas and small villages to the city with end stage fungi eating masses for tumor, something that you never see in the West. The kind of grotesque cancers that I was being an eye witness to. So to begin with, I had become fascinated intellectually by the problem of cancer. How does a normal cell go so awry that it becomes this malignant, malevolent creature that ends up killing its own host? But then to the intellectual fascination was added and emotional gripping challenge that we have to reduce the suffering. And so at both intellectual and emotional level, by the time I was 18 years old, I was completely devoted to cancer.

Saul Marquez:
Wow. You know, when you have that type of message, that type of experience, that’s both emotional and just speaks to you. There’s just no denying it, you know? So I guess the world has its way with us. And so you were brought through this journey and here you were that first patient. That was it. Amazing. That’s a beautiful story. And so now fast forward, you’ve done such incredible work. You’re helping so many people. You’ve published your latest book, The First Cell. So tell us a little bit about the book and you know a little bit about how you approach the topic of cancer and the human costs of pursuing cancer to the last. Tell us about it.

Dr. Azra Raza:
The primary message of the book is not rocket science. Basically, in a nutshell, I’m advocating for the earliest possible detection and elimination of cancer at the first stage, first cell level. Basically, I emphasize two facts about cancer that are beyond dispute. The first is that 90 percent of cancers that are diagnosed at stages one and two are cured, while 90 percent are diagnosed with stage three and four are not. So the earlier we find cancer, the better. Then the question is how early? Why should we be satisfied with stage one? Even that still requires proof. Interventions with slash poison and burn surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy. Those are not mild treatments. Right? So my idea is why are we doing this Paleolithic Stone Age treatment? Why not find cancer early? Which brings me to the second undisputable fact that cancers start in a single cell and therefore my conclusion why not go after that first single cell, the first cell? Now the secondary message, as you alluded, is contained within the subtitle of the book The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last. What does that mean? Basically, it’s all I’m calling for a more holistic approach to cancer, and for God’s sake, by this, I don’t mean that we should be sitting under a aanyan tree and eating pumpkin seeds and chanting some mantra. Know what I mean by a holistic approach is that instead of being obsessed with curing cancer, we should worry more about curing the patient. We need to worry more about the physical, emotional, the spiritual anguish that we are causing, not just to the patients, but their families, to the community, to the society. So instead of statistics, I have used stories, stories of patients in my book to make the point. But you know, once I started telling the stories of my patients in granular detail, I realized that it’s kind of dishonest or insincere to hold back my own.

Saul Marquez:
Oh, okay. Yeah.

Dr. Azra Raza:
So that’s the point where I decided to put my own story, which means the story of how I lost my own husband, who was head of the Cancer Center at the University in Chicago, and how he got the very disease he was trying to cure all his life, leukemia and in a cruel twist of irony, how he suffered for five years and died. And once I started writing about that, then the book became like, kind of a memoir, also a personal story, Harvey’s story. My husband’s story then runs like a red line through every chapter because then everywhere he makes his appearance. So basically, the last thing I want to say about the book Saul, is all this is a book that’s just not just written by me. It has many authors. There are testimonials from patients who are surviving many years, even with active cancers. One of the chapters, Chapter Six, which is about Andrew. The story of Andrew, is told in the words of my daughter, Sheherazade and Andrew’s sister Kat. But to me, the most important and I would say perhaps the most unique part of the book is the last section where I go to the families of patients who they lost many years ago. I go back to them years afterwards, like sometimes more than 10 years later, and I ask the families to cast a backward glance now and tell me, how would they second guess now knowing what they know now? How would they change any of those decisions? What other choices would they have made? How else would they have negotiated their way through those scoundrel times now that they’ve had luxury of time? What decisions could be would they like to alter, reject? What advice would they follow? And honestly, what what they’ve said is so powerful? Everyone needs to hear it, I think. And the impetus for writing the book now has been in a way I would say, both human and scientific. The human part is that despite all the spectacular insights into the understanding of biology of cancer, basically we are woefully lagging behind, still converting these insights into improved therapies for patients. Sure, there are advances, but they are slow and incremental, and we need to do better than that. And there has to be an urgency that must be recognized for dealing with the problem of cancer. Just like we are dealing with the problem of COVID, we recognize this as a real menace to society, and we abbreviated 10 years of work into producing a vaccine in one year because we knew the urgency. Why aren’t we treating cancer like that?

Saul Marquez:
What would you say? Do you know maybe why we’re not?

Dr. Azra Raza:
I’m not sure why this lethargy and this lack of appreciation is so pervasive, because if you think about it Saul, one out of three women and one out of two men will get cancer in their lifetime. One out of three women, one out of two men.

Saul Marquez:
That is a huge number.

Dr. Azra Raza:
That’s a huge number, and cancer is a dreadful scourge. And yet what is happening is somehow there is a delusional sort of understanding that there are. Many cures for cancers, because every other day you see a headline declaring cure for brain tumors found. And when you read the fine print in mice. But who reads the fine print, people just read the headline, Oh, brain tumor rescue. It’s only when either they or someone they love gets brain tumor, they go to the doctor and said, Oh, sorry, it’s advanced. We have nothing to offer except palliative care. And that’s when they realized suddenly, because cancer is a scary subject, no one wants to do research now. So the public, in my opinion, is not educated enough to understand that cancer is a real issue and there is no improvement in cancer treatment basically, since nineteen thirty two today, it’s the same. Who realizes this? But if COVID happened, then every individual’s life was affected directly. So an urgency was recognized.

Saul Marquez:
Right. Right.

Dr. Azra Raza:
And this is the difference, why the cancer urgency. But you see those of us who are in the know-how, the institutions in this country that are trusted with the responsibility to protect the public and the patients they know better?

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s a great message, Ezra. And you know, your perspective in the approach is really great. You have been personally affected by this with your husband. You see patients every single day and you have a very unique perspective, and I really appreciate it. How would you say with the book and everything that you have going on, you know, how is this delivering a different or better approach than what’s out there today?

Dr. Azra Raza:
Look, I think it’s pretty simple. I’m a follower of Thomas Kuhn, you know, he wrote the great book The Structure of Scientific Revolution and basically Thomas Khun point is that you’re not happy with the current paradigm, you want to change the paradigm, show the success of the new one. So in other words, you keep trying to improve the typewriter, improve the typewriter until somebody comes up with a word processor. Who cares about the typewriter?

Saul Marquez:
Right.

Dr. Azra Raza:
So you completely came up with a new paradigm. You know, let’s say that once the light bulb became available, no one wants to go whaling and kill whales to obtain blubber for oil for their lamps. By the way, Moby Dick taught me this lesson. So in other words, I think that the way we are going to get to shift the paradigm and completely turn the field 180 degrees on its head is by showing that early detection is possible. Now right now, the screening measures that monitored for early detection are confined to mammograms, PSA Colonoscopy and pap smears. Even those have saved millions of lives, but they have their limitations because at best, they pick up cancer at stage one or two, right? So still the earliest stage one. So still, we need to use one of the slash poison burn treatments to get rid of the cancer. What I’m saying is we need to monitor wellness to find illness. We need to be treating the human body like a machine and we need to be monitoring it 24-7. You see, I’m wearing this Fitbit, I’m sure you are too, and it’s recording all kinds of things on me. I think that very easily we can also develop the devices, the imaging scanning techniques needed in miniaturized forms that can be inserted as a chip under the skin to scan constantly for the first cell. And once we detect the first cell, we zap it out of existence right then and there so that it doesn’t even develop into an end stage monstrosity that then has to present clinically, either in stage from one to four any any of those. So how do we shift that paradigm even if a few people working in the area of early detection? Few scientists who are committed can show even a small success. Suddenly, it will shift the paradigm and everybody in their grandmother will turn. But right now, my sort of crusade is I’m doing it. Few of my colleagues are doing it. Why should we be the only one? In fact, at a government level, ninety five percent of resources are being invested in studying end stage cancers. Five percent are dedicated to early detection. And can you imagine Saul out of that five percent? They combine early detection with prevention, which means 90 percent of that five percent money goes to anti-smoking and anti-obesity campaigns. So how much money is left to look for the first cell for God’s sake? I’m demanding that the institutions at the government level need to change this, and they should at least give 50 percent of the resources to early detection of the first cell. And I’m not talking about just financial resources,. Intellectual resources, so many smart young people wasting their time you know, in chasing after the last cell, whereas it’s costing horrible anguish to patients who are dying today.

Saul Marquez:
So well said, you know it also it makes me think about in general how our health care system functions. Right? Its sick care. The way that the reimbursement models are all set up is to take care of sick people. And then when you get to wellness, the well is dry. Not even your primary care physician can help you with wellness. So it’s a challenge. It’s a huge challenge. I think even as we turn the corner on COVID and we start thinking about programs like Medicare Advantage, for example, I feel like we’re starting to turn the corner in this sick care model because we have adults living to older ages. We’re starting to need programs to take care of their wellness. So I’m excited about that piece and I’m hopeful. I know it’s a lot of work. And so the work that you’re doing to help identify this opportunity, Dr. Azra around the first cell is very exciting. It’s very exciting. I’m hopeful. So so what you’re doing is creating hope for us. And so I’ve got to tell you about this. So the other day, I had this gentleman on my podcast. His name is Jo Bhakdi. He’s the CEO of Quant Gene. He’s telling me that you could take blood, one drop of blood and find all of the broken cells that you guys are literally talking the same language here and through the broken cells deduce that something’s coming.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Yeah, absolutely. There are smart people like that who are doing it, and I’m asking through my message in the first cell that the reactive medicine has to stop. We need to go to proactive preventive, predictive and participatory medicine instead of this kind of, you know, going for cures. We should go for prevention. And I’m confident, Saul that in this coming decade, we are going to see a complete shift from trying to cure to trying to prevent the disease. It has to happen because the country is coming to a financial collapse, for God’s sake. And by the way, in medicine, the only real treatment we have found that is curative is for infectious diseases. Once antibiotics were discovered, life expectancy doubled from 40 to practically 80 years. But still, the real revolution didn’t come with antibiotics. It came with vaccines when we could prevent polio and diphtheria and typhoid and cholera and all, you know, prevention prevail still there also when you had a perfect cure. In other words, even if we find a perfect cure for cancer today, we still are better off preventing. So I’m going to keep insisting for the first cell.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. No, I appreciate your insistence and your passion. I haven’t read the book, but I’m going to. I love that you included stories. You know, stories are one of the best ways to educate and to get that feeling out of it. You know, stats will help you solve problems, but stories will help you solve problems, too. So I love the opportunity in the approach that you’ve taken. So how has what you do improved outcomes? And maybe, maybe we talk about the approach, you know, maybe you could paint the picture of how your approach can help us with the first cell?

Dr. Azra Raza:
Well, when my husband Harvey was diagnosed with the cancer that took his life, our daughter was four years old, and when he died, she was eight. A few weeks after he died, so I was sitting in the living room and she had developed some flu or something. And she was, you know, a little sick. A few days before this morning, she came out of the room hysterically crying. As a mother, my first thought was, Oh my God, she’s worse. Yeah, yeah, she’s worse. So I said, What happened, Sheherzad? Are you feeling much worse? And she couldn’t even answer me. She was inconsolable. She kept crying. Eventually, she was able to control herself. And this is what she said. No, mommy. Actually, I feel much better today, but now I know how horrible it feels to be sick and how good it is to get well. And my dad never got well and then she started crying again. And you see, when a child who’s eight years old is able to have that empathy, that sense that somebody suffered so much for four long years and there was no respite until they died. It shook her up to the soul. Twenty million people worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer in 2021, and 10 million of them will not get better. How is it possible that despite spending a quarter of a trillion dollars in research, two hundred and fifty billion dollars in basic research, we are still using the same things. Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy, except for a few cancers, which are not the common types. My colleague Siddhartha Mukherjee, who got the Pulitzer Prize for his book Emperor of All Maladies, a magisterial account of Biography of Cancer. He did something very clever. He took the example of the Persian queen, a tosser who lived 500 B.C. one day. She felt a lump in her breast and she tried to ignore it. It kept growing, so she asked her Greek slave, took out his sword and he slashed her breast. She survived. This is the first case of recorded mastectomy for breast cancer, so we were slashing breasts three thousand years ago. What are we doing today?

Saul Marquez:
Slashing breasts.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Yeah. And Siddhartha Mukherjee took the case of a dorsa and kept asking the question What if she lived a thousand years ago? What if she lived 500 years? What if she lived 20 years ago? What if she lives 50 years from now? Are we going to be still doing the same thing and why? So you ask me a question like, how has your approach helped? Let me say this. There is a one percent decline in cancer mortality every year, one percent every year, but that accounts for 30 percent in the last 30 years. But you know what? It has come from two things only. Anti-smoking campaign and earlier detection through those growth measures of screening, mammograms, pap smears, etc., but no improvement in treatment. In other words, treatment for cancer, which is advanced, is going to be so difficult to find that it is better for us to take our blinders off our eyes, come down from our high horses,m admit that the farther you go into the sea, the deeper it gets. The more we learn about cancer biology, the more confusing it becomes. Because look, biology is very complicated. So in the meantime, thousands of people are dying, millions of people. So let’s stop that. Let’s just see what is the strategy that works best early detection, find really early and zap the cancer cell out of existence, and it is very doable. It’s not a pie in the sky. So I think even if I make an intellectual connection with people right now, that can create a buzz which will force the institutions eho have the responsibility to do this, to start paying more attention to early detection and prevention, rather than spending all their money going after the last cell. This is how I think it’s helping right now. But like the example you gave, there are lots of people who are doing practical things, including me.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. And so is it two hundred and fifty billion a year?

Dr. Azra Raza:
No. The National Cancer Institute budget qqis about six billion a year.

Saul Marquez:
Six billion a year.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Yeah, of course we spend in this country 300 billion a year on coffee.

Saul Marquez:
What’s important to us? You know what is important to us? That’s the question. And so, you know, say you detect it. How do you zap it? Like, what’s the means of zapping the first cell?

Dr. Azra Raza:
So, you know, many people when I speak nationally, meetings and things, some clever hot shot whippersnapper will raise their hands and say, Well, Dr. what if you find a cell circulating that you know it’s cancer somewhere? Are you going to give the person a bone marrow transplant? I mean, my answer is why would I use strategies developed to kill the last cell for the first cell?

Saul Marquez:
Yeah.

Dr. Azra Raza:
That’s crazy. This is like saying, I’m going to use a faster horseshoe to put in a car battery. Of course, the same same strategies are not going to work right because you can’t surgically slash a first cell. What is going to work is the kind of technology will co evolve as we understand the biologic characteristics of that earliest cell possible. And you know what, Saul? All cancer doesn’t arise because of some random mutation. Cancer arises because an organ is being stressed. Stressed by what? Inflammation, infection, autoimmune problems, ultraviolet radiation, tissue damage, anything. Let’s say somebody gets a hepatitis B virus infection of the liver. Now the liver cells are being attacked by the virus. Body is trying to mount an immune response. There’s hell going on in the liver. Lots of normal cells are dying. They’re being told either you fight or flight. You either develop some strategy to survive or you’re going to go extinct. So cells start doing crazy things trying to survive, and that’s how cancer arises. So it’s not just the cancer cells, but the stress that’s around that has to be taken care of. So the treatment of zapping out the first cell will also depend on what is causing the appearance of that first cell, to take care of that underlying stress to the organism. To the tissue where it’s coming from, but these are all things that need to be studied. I am 100 percent confident that we will be able to find a zip code on the cancer cell through which we can direct the natural killer immune cells to go to the exact correct address, find that zip code and destroy the cell.

Saul Marquez:
Wow. Yeah. So the technology will evolve hand in hand with the ability as we understand it better. We will also find a way to address that cell’s presence and its on the inside, as well as the outside, all the stimuli that that are creating the stress, making sure we’re addressing the full picture.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Beautifully said.

Saul Marquez:
All right. All right. Thank you. And so it’s fascinating. I love the idea, and I think that is where we’re going. You have me convinced. So as you think about some of the biggest setbacks that we’ve experienced as a nation, as a world, as a globe. What would you say? Some of the biggest learnings are you’re already sharing so many, some of the insights the in-between the lines insights with the backdrop of history and the first mastectomy. Like, what would you say is the biggest setback that we can learn from?

Dr. Azra Raza:
You may be surprised by my answer. The biggest setback to me is the kind of cancer or health care enterprise we have evolved, where the two parties that have skin in the game, doctors and patients have the least say now. Doctors are overworked and I would say underpaid, though no one believes it. But they are. Doctors are overworked and patients we are fleecing them for every last penny. Can you imagine that in this country, forty two percent of patients who will be diagnosed with cancer this year by the second year of their diagnosis will be penniless. 42 percent is not a minor number.

Saul Marquez:
It’s terrible.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Saul, how are we doing this to patients that we are not going to cure you, but we’ll take every last penny from you and we will make make your gext generation also completely financially ruined. Can you imagine that 40 percent women with stage four breast cancer today are being hounded by collection agencies, so they don’t have to worry just about dying? Now they have to worry about what are they going to do for the next century? And no one is being cured. It’s not like we are curing them by taking away their home and their Social Security and their pension. So to me, this is the greatest setback. How is it possible that you can go and buy 100 Tylenol tablets for like six point ninety nine? But if you’re given two Tylenol inside a hospital, it’s seventy five dollars and no one can question this bill. They can decide what they’re charging. So it’s not just drug companies, it’s everybody. I call it paycheck oncology. Everyone’s paycheck is dependent on these things. And as I started by saying the two parties with skin in the game are nowhere to be seen. Patients are just helpless because they are so sick and there’s lack of education. People don’t know. I’m not the only one saying it. Many people have written about it, but there’s no outrage because unlike the pandemic we are dealing with, it’s somebody else’s problem. Hello, cancer is not going to be somebody else’s problem tomorrow. I don’t know of anyone whose life is not affected, at least through one degree of separation. Everyone knows somebody who died of cancer if they don’t have cancer themselves or their family doesn’t have it. So this is my answer that it’s a horrible system that has evolved. Everything disease has been monetized and everything is about business.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, it’s a big problem. And so you mentioned that it was 42 percent, right? Forty two percent will be penniless. What happens to the others? The other thirty eight percent?

Dr. Azra Raza:
They have good insurance.

Saul Marquez:
Is that right?

Dr. Azra Raza:
Yeah. I mean, they’re good insurance or they are rich. They can afford the co-pay. I give you two statistics. Forty two percent patients with newly diagnosed cancer will lose every penny of their life saving by the second year. That’s one statistic. The second one I gave you 40 percent omen with stage four breast cancer are being hounded by collection agencies. I can’t make up these statistics. They are so bad. You know what Mark Twain said? Facts are more fantastic than fiction. But in fact, his real thing is facts are more fantastic than fiction because fiction has to remain bound by the realm of possibilities.

Dr. Azra Raza:
I love that. Honestly, when I see these real things, this is what I feel like. My God, this is fact that no one will believe me if I say this.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, it’s a problem. It’s just not right. You know, it is a setback. We’ve got to think about it. It really just the entire solution, right from starting with the first cell to having a system that allows more access and affordability transparency. How did we get to where we’re at? You know, it’s a challenge. It really is.

Dr. Azra Raza:
We can overturn the paradigm with one success story. So let’s find the first cell, and that’s no one will care about the last cell anymore.

Saul Marquez:
Let’s find that story back to book. Who was that again? The book you suggested.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Oh, Siddhartha Mukherjee or Thomas Kuhn?

Saul Marquez:
Thomas Kuhn. Get that first example.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Yeah, the structure of Scientific Revolution, a brilliant book written in the 60s.

Saul Marquez:
Get that first example. And for those of you thinking about this right now, there’s an opportunity. You know, you guys probably heard our interview with Joe Bhakti. Now you’re hearing our interview with Dr Azra Raza. The call is there. You have to answer it. You know, you have to answer it because the call is there. So make the choice we’re we could all benefit from this greatly. If you want to learn more, certainly, you’ve got to check out the book. I’m definitely going to check it out. Last Cell by Dr Azra Raza. So make sure you check that. What are you most excited about today?

Dr. Azra Raza:
I measure every grief I meet with analytic eyes. I wonder if it weighs by like mine or wears a different size. I wonder if they had it long or did it just begin? I cannot find the date of mine. It’s been so long a pain. I wonder if it hurts to live and if they have to try and whether, could they choose between they would not rather die. This is how I spend my time, worrying, walking people through exceedingly tormented and painful terminal journeys. What am I most excited about? To prevent all this from happening. Number one and number two to make the patient, bring the patient back, front and center into every conversation about cancer. And to make everything patient intensive, consumer strong. Right now, the bastions of powers rest in hospitals and clinics, and with oncologists. They need to be returned to the consumer that they should be able to have monitoring of all their health features. They should have a cloud of data recorded every single day, and they should have artificial intelligence and these analytic devices that would be alerting them to even the footprints, the earliest footprints that something can go seriously wrong unless intervention happens. Now, I’m most excited about the natural evolution of screening technology like mammograms and pap smears and colonoscopy towards the technology that will be able to monitor the human body from birth to death through implantable chips and alert us to the appearance of disease way before it becomes clinically apparent. This is what I’m excited about.

Saul Marquez:
It’s very exciting, and I think we’re going to get there. It just takes one person at a time like you, Dr. Raza, to speak up. It takes one person at a time like you listening to this right now. Learn more. Pick up the book. Talk to a friend. Just go for that next step that could get us closer to it. And that’s how we get there. I’ve really enjoyed today’s conversation, Dr. Raza. This has been so much fun. I’m grateful that you think about these things in this way and that you’ve shared your story with us and also your philosophy. I love if you just leave us with the closing thought and if the listeners want to get in touch or learn more about your work, where can they go?

Dr. Azra Raza:
A word is dead. When it is said something. A word is dead when it is said something. I say it just begins to live that day. Let me leave you with this thought. If I had a choice between a walk on the moon and saving one life from cancer, I would never look at the moon again. Think of this every day, guys. How can you help save a life from cancer? And you can contact me on my website, AzraRaza.com. Any questions concerns you have any comments. You have any suggestions you have. Feel free to give them to me. I’m so grateful to you, Saul, for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today and to your listeners. Thank you.

Saul Marquez:
It’s my pleasure, and it’s certainly our pleasure to have you here. We appreciate you and all your work and definitely looking forward to doing this again. Thanks for all you do. Dr. Raza.

Dr. Azra Raza:
Thank you.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • 90 percent of cancers that are diagnosed at stages one and two are cured, while 90 percent are diagnosed with stage three and four are not.
  • Despite all the spectacular insights into the understanding of biology of cancer, we are still lagging behind.
  • The public is not educated enough to understand that cancer is a real issue.
  • There has been no improvement in cancer treatment basically since 1932.
  • If you’re not happy with the current paradigm, change the paradigm. Show the success of the new one.
  • Governments should give at least  percent of the resources to early detection of the first cell.
  • In medicine, the only real treatment we have found that is curative is for infectious diseases.
  • Twenty million people worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer in 2021, and 10 million of them will not get better.
  • The National Cancer Institute budget is about six billion a year.
  • Cancer arises because an organ is being stressed.
  • Forty-two percent of patients who will be diagnosed with cancer this year by the second year of their diagnosis will be penniless

 

Resources

Website: https://azraraza.com/

Books Mentioned: 

The First Cell: And the Human Cost of Pursuing Cancer to the Last

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Emperor of All Maladies