November 1997

Roam for the Holidays

By Michael J. Katin, MD

As the calendar year winds down, we have been taking the opportunity to try move ahead on the few pathetic clinical research projects on which we are allowed to work despite a non-academic practice. It would seem logical that there would be a desire on the part of those promoting these studies (cooperative groups, regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical companies) to sign up as many participants as possible by the end of December but instead there has been a frightening realization that, in fact, government and corporate America seem to abruptly slow down at this time of year due to an entity known as "the holidays." This demonstrated in such statements as, "Of course, we probably won't be able to finish this up until after the holidays." It can probably be taken for granted that nothing in process will be finalized until at least late January.

The odd thing is that it is never specified as to the nature of "the holidays." Presumably this is because of the need for political correctness, not emphasizing that one is biased in favor of Christmas or Hanukkah or Ramadan. Or is it possible that most of us don't even know that the other person might be referring to Guy Fawkes Day (November 5), Finnish Independence Day (December 6), Berchtoldstag (January 2), or even Elvis' birthday (January 9)?

The only portions of our society to which this does not apply are the mall-based sector, most importantly, and, less importantly, your medical practice. People will now be crashing in trying to get everything over with before new deductibles kick in as of January 1. Others will be switching insurance plans as of' January 1, undoubtedly having somehow discovered an even worse policy than before, and the paperwork involved in this will not be pretty.

I think it is not unreasonable to assume that cancer can also put itself' hold until after the holidays, with all but the most Scrooge-like of cells placing themselves into G-zero at least until after St. Agnes' Eve (January 20). We already have verification that the weekend effect in radiation therapy is a real entity and it shouldn't be too hard to have the radiobiologists justify their existence by proving the existence of the ho1iday effect.

Or maybe they should just put it off until after the holidays.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com