February 2001

Quint (x10) Essentials

By Michael J. Katin, MD

The collective imagination of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick did not envision that the year 2001 would be made eventful by the occurrence of the 50th column of this series; I consider this important enough to again avoid using this month's slot for the long-awaited conclusion of the July, 2000, column, "A Revolting Development - Part II."

Life is somewhat different in 2001 than it was in 1968 but probably not to the extent envisioned by Clarke and Kubrick. Instead of regularly-scheduled commercial shuttle service to the space station, instead we have regularly-scheduled domestic flights with the worst on-time arrival record in history. Instead of a permanent base on the moon we can barely generate enough power to keep California inhabited. Are the same disappointments evident in oncology treatment?

Today is Groundhog Day, and, at the risk of excessive motion picture references, maybe this is indicative that we are condemned to relive experiences over and over again until we reach enlightenment. Although we probably would have predicted that by 2001 surgery, chemotherapy, and, heaven forbid, radiation therapy might have become archaic, instead we are still developing combinations of treatment in various diseases without finally settling on universal principles. An example is that a major publication of the past few months reported the Gynecologic Oncology Group study showing a significant benefit of combined modality treatment for locally and regionally advanced carcinoma of the vulva. Hasn't this previously been determined for other tumor sites, particularly anal carcinoma?

This is the tenth anniversary of our group's program for brachytherapy for treatment of carcinoma of the prostate, and I observed an imposing number of similarities between events of 1991 and 2001:

  • George Bush is President of the United States
  • The New York Giants were in the Super Bowl
  • A documentary series by Ken Burns is attracting viewers to PBS
  • Jean-Bertrand Aristide is preparing to assume leadership in Haiti
  • Anthony Hopkins stars as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a major motion picture release
  • Saddam Hussein is firmly in control in Iraq
  • Consumer confidence is waning due to concern about a faltering economy

And if you're concerned about the significance of this number of items and what this portends for the rest of this year and its impact on our society....keep in mind who won the 1991 Grammy Award for "Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male."

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com