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 mass.

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.

What's Next?
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 anti-cancer therapies."

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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