Friday’s Public Affairs Discussion Group to debate changing definition of cancer

Berger-smThe weekly Public Affairs Discussion Group will continue this week with a talk titled, “Is It or Is It Not Cancer? Is That the Question?”

Nathan Berger, the Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine, director of the Center for Science, Health and Society and professor of medicine, biochemistry and oncology at the School of Medicine, will lead the discussion, which will take place Friday, Nov. 8, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Dampeer Room at Kelvin Smith Library.

“Scientists Seek to Rein in Diagnoses of Cancer,” was a headline in The New York Times on July 29, after a working group convened by the National Cancer Institute “recommended changing the definition of cancer and eliminating the word from some common diagnoses as part of sweeping changes in the nation’s approach to cancer detection and treatment.”

Their report argued that hundreds of thousands of patients receive painful and potentially harmful and expensive treatments for lesions that may never become malignant or are unlikely to ever cause harm.

The chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society declared that, “we need a 21st century definition of cancer instead of a 19th century definition, which is what we have been using,” while others charged that the federal government was looking for excuses to ration care.

What are the merits of the arguments and consequences of any change? Join Berger, former dean of the School of Medicine and a leader in both cancer research and treatment, to discuss the report and the questions it raises.

Since 1989, faculty, emeriti, students and staff have gathered on Fridays for a brown-bag lunch and to discuss topics in public affairs.

For updates and more information about the Friday lunch schedule, visit

Contact for more information.