Riding the cancer train to fame and fortune

A privileged few get filthy rich—while innocent millions suffer

The cancer train has no signs of slowing down.

Two news stories caught my attention this week. One from Boston, the other from Los Angeles. Both were stories about how big money is being made in the cancer industry. The richest man in Los Angeles owes his vast wealth to the 41-year war on cancer and the never-ending search for the cure.

Meanwhile, at my local Big-Y supermarket during the entire month of October, all customers are greeted with the same cheery question from the cashier:

“Would you like to donate a dollar for breast cancer research?”

From the super rich to the bottom rung of the middle class, everyone gets a chance to participate in the cancer industry. And it has become so ubiquitous, that one tends to feel a pang of guilt if she doesn’t pony up that dollar when asked by the cashier. After all, what would her neighbor in line next to her think if she was too cheap and/or too uncaring to help fight cancer?

But are we really fighting cancer? Or are we just all participating in an incredibly complex process of producing drugs to treat symptoms, providing jobs for millions, and creating vulgar levels of wealth for a privileged, and very shrewd, few? From L.A. to Boston; let’s take a look.

In Los Angeles. Mr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (part owner of the Lakers) made the news this week after announcing a joint venture to create a nationwide system for sharing DNA and other data on cancer patients.

The richest man in Los Angeles

So is L.A.’s richest man doing this out of the goodness of his heart or is he just pumping more energy into the industry that has made him one of the wealthiest people on the planet? Exactly where did all that wealth come from? From Reuters (See link below):

By 2008, Patrick Soon-Shiong controlled 82 percent of APP Pharmaceuticals, the company he started to develop injectable drugs to treat cancer and other illnesses. Soon-Shiong sold the company for $5.6 billion to Germany’s Fresenuis Kabi Pharmaceuticals, netting him $4.6 billion.

In 2010, he sold Abraxis BioScience, which he had spun off from APP in 2007, to pharmaceutical company Celgene Corp. for $2.9 billion. His 82 percent stake was worth $2.4 billion.

Question: How rich would Mr. Soon-Shiong be without the cancer industry?

Andrew Lo of MIT; helping investors earn money on cancer.

In Boston, another story about making money on the cancer train. An MIT finance professor and hedge fund manager (Andrew Lo), wants to bring Wall Street-style financial­ engineering to curing cancer. From the Boston Globe article:

Named this year as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Lo runs an investment firm in Cambridge called AlphaSimplex Group, with $3 billion in assets. He is known for his “adaptive markets” financial theory, which maintains that prices and investors are not always rational.

Now he is proposing an idea that would go beyond his own firm, creating a “megafund” that would flood early-stage research in cancer drugs with $30 billion. By supporting as many as 150 experimental compounds at any one time and bringing in large numbers of investors, he argues, the risk would be spread over a much larger base. Even if just a few of the treatments prove effective, Lo estimates the fund would be profitable, earning equity investors annual returns of 7 to 10 percent.

“Only with massive scale can you reduce the risk of this early-stage research,’’ said Lo, who pitched his megafund idea in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology. “Finance is a means to an end. It’s a way to allow us to collaborate on problems of unprecedented scale,” he said.

Results? With all of this “collaboration on problems of unprecedented scale,” what kind of progress has been made?  How are we doing with our “war on cancer” that was famously launched by President Nixon—41 years ago?

The Scoreboard (As I see it—using football scores)

  • 91 points (13 touchdowns) for raising awareness of the disease
  • 77 points (11 touchdowns) for raising money (billions)
  • 56 points (8 touchdowns) for creating jobs (millions)
  • 49 points (7 touchdowns) for increasing the nation’s GDP (driving up the cost of health care)
  •   3 points (one field goal) for finding the cure (and this may be generous)
  •   2 points (one safety) for explaining the leading cause of cancer and the simple steps that people can take to either prevent, slow, stop or reverse most cancers.

Those simple steps, of course, are simply teaching everyone the importance of returning to the natural, health-promoting, diet for our species. But, there’s no money to be made by preventing cancers.

The big money is being made in treating cancers—and with the cancer genome atlas just beginning to gather momentum, the cost of these personalized treatments will continue to spiral out of control and will soon bankrupt our entire nation. Current score:

Cancer Industry: 259 —– Innocent Public: 5

Consecutive Daily Blogs

You think this is lopsided? It’s going to get a lot worse if our government doesn’t start telling all citizens about the leading cause of cancer and the simple steps to control it.

Even when they ever tell us the truth, only a small percentage will follow the health-promoting advice. But it will be a much-needed step in the right direction.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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7 Responses to Riding the cancer train to fame and fortune

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you for the blog. The industry is a cancer itself. If asked to donate for breast cancer awareness, my answer is “I’m aware there is breast cancer and aware that a vegan diet will eradicate it.” I also ask businesses if they help raise money for testicular or prostate cancer. Invariably, the answer is no. I then ask why I should do business with a sexist company. (I do realize a few men get breast cancer, but it is essentially a female “cause.”) So much of our beleaguered economy is dependent on our poor health. Such a drain. Glad I opted out of that lifestyle in the mid 90’s for good!

  2. Denise says:

    It’s very disheartening – many thanks for your wonderful work, Jim.
    And I have Dr. Campbell’s new book on my list – thank you!

  3. Sal Liggieri says:


    Has your enthusiasm waned just a little about changing the way people eat? It seems your blogs have now been directed more towards the negative side of the issue.

    It sure appears that changing the food habits of people is the impossible dream.

    Sal Liggieri

  4. T. Colin Campbell says:

    A very important topic and thanks for doing it. I find the whole cancer industry to be so painful in its flagrant attempt to make money not health. Just wrote about this same topic in my new book, “Whole”.


  5. Linda201 says:

    At my Whole Foods now, at each checkout, there is a basket of COOKIES in the shape of the breast cancer pink ribbon. If you buy one, some of the proceeds go to “research.” I apologized to the checkout girl in advance for my indignation and then said, “Buy a cookie made of sugar, fats, and artificial colors to fight breast cancer? The only missing cancer-promoting ingredient is dairy.” You’d think Whole Foods would be more enlightened about the connection between diet and breast cancer than Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  6. Virginia mc says:

    Well said … 2 points…love you bro

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