Vincent DeVita, M.D.
Former Director, NCI

I've always said that cancer is the most curable of all the chronic diseases. And it's been a big gap between what we could do under ideal circumstances and what actually happens. For example: You could easily decrease mortality by 50% if we had a complete new organization and all the resources necessary to do it; to distribute those resources throughout the country in a uniform way. You'll never be able to do that; this is too diverse a country. So you have to take a smaller piece of it. But you can prospectively drive the machine so you can set goals and reduce mortality. And I think it's happening.

I work with the American Cancer Society, I'm on the Board of Directors, and they have goals for the year 2015 of reducing cancer mortality by 50%. They have recently done a mid-term sort of estimate of where they are. And if nothing else happens, the mortality will be reduced by 23.8% by the year 2015. But since they made that mid-term estimate, things have happened. So it's already old and it will be better than 23.8%. My guess is that they're going to come darn close to 50% reduction by then. Now, the NCI goals of reducing suffering and death or eliminating suffering or death are a little hard to define in the sense of percentage of reduction.