The Standard Approach
These kinds of ideas and approaches would be extremely welcome in
the oncology clinics throughout the U.S., says Pollock, who deals
daily with cancer patients. After graduating from Oberlin in 1972
Pollock set aside his modern German history major and gravitated
into the areas of surgery and oncology. He found himself skilled
with his hands and enticed by the repair work needed to correct
the damage caused by tumors.
In diagnosing patients, he explains, most oncologists
use a staging system. Stage I tumors are small and bear few mutations.
These cancers are self-contained and are often treated surgically.
Stage II tumors are larger or of a higher grade and are best treated
by a combination of surgery and radiation. Which comes first is
determined by the physician and patient.
At stage III status, tumors are large, of high grade,
and likely to break off as wayward cancer cells into the bloodstream
and nearby tissue. Chemotherapy is required to pick off these migrating
and circulating renegade cells. Cancer cells in stage IV tumors
have already spread and formed secondary tumors in other sites,
usually in liver and lymph nodes. Treatment involves chemotherapy
and sometimes surgery, but often only to relieve pain from the growing
Pollock showed dramatic pictures of the kinds of surgery
and reconstructive work he and his colleagues have to do. Upon removal,
some tumors are so large, they require up to three physicians to
hold their bulk. Patients often have to have whole limbs, joints,
and torso regions amputated.
"I really hope what I do will be put out of business
by what my colleagues do," said Pollock, pointing to his three
fellow alumni seated at the symposium.
Perhaps his hope will be realized. In the last 30 years, says Treichel,
"our understanding of how tumor cells develop and what the
mutations are in cancer have provided new ideas for developing new
But given the complicated nature of such a vicious
biological killer, the anti-cancer campaign will likely fall into
the hands of the next generation of Oberlin graduates. If history
is any indicator, they will fight the cancer war just as boldly
and creatively as their predecessors
--by Trisha Gura
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