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03 June 2011

The return of the Friday Night Question, chosen at random from The Book of Questions.[More:]

#59: By controlling medical research funds, you are in the position to guarantee that a cure will be found in 15 years for any disease you choose. Unfortunately, no progress on any others would be made during that period. Would you target one disease?
How often are cures found now? If less than once every 15 years, then I don't target. If longer than 15 years, then I target.
posted by Ardiril 03 June | 16:48
Are we talking specific diseases or things that are more general causes? Like say, Malaria vs. Cancer?
posted by The Whelk 03 June | 17:05
Sure. Cancer. There are a lot of diseases that kill cruelly and widely, but I think cancer takes the prize for being tops at both.
posted by bearwife 03 June | 17:09
Also is this cure going to be cheap? Available,e to everyone? Side effects?
posted by The Whelk 03 June | 17:09
Cancer, although cancer is many different diseases. So I'll say breast cancer.
posted by danf 03 June | 17:14
Is obesity a disease? Not really, but curing obesity would help cure/lessen other diseases such as my favourite - Type 2 diabetes. It would also help lessen instances of heart disease, strokes, some cancers, sleep apnea and other diseases/conditions.
posted by deborah 03 June | 17:55
Are we considering ASSHOLERY a disease?
posted by fluffy battle kitten 03 June | 17:59
Yeah that was my point, do I get to say cancer even though cancer is like a hundred different types of things that share the same procress, or does it have to be something exactly distinct, like malaria?
posted by The Whelk 03 June | 18:12
Although my knee jerk response is Alzhemiers.Cause it's such a Evil Genie way t go.
posted by The Whelk 03 June | 18:14
It seems like it would be difficult to cure one disease entirely without any improvement in the treatments for others. But taking the question at face value, I look at the advances that have appeared (even with the understanding that most involved years of prior research and in many cases probably better conditions for funding) since about 1995, and I'm going to say no, I wouldn't pick one disease to treat at the expense of other research. If someone had done so fifteen years ago, we might not have seen the development of induced pluripotent stem cells, limb transplants, protease inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, and tissue engineering for artificial skin/bone/cartilage and organ repair, to name some big ones. A final cure for anything would be so very tempting, but I couldn't make that choice in good conscience. And I'm more optimistic than not for the next fifteen years.
posted by notquitemaryann 03 June | 18:37
If you can be overly general and still get the results in this obviously impossible hypothetical, like a Unified Cure for All Kinds of Cancer, I wouldn't pick that, I'd pick Mental Illness. (I am losing more respect for The Book of Questions with every Friday Night)
posted by oneswellfoop 03 June | 18:42
Drug addiction and it's related friend, mental illness as oneswellfoop says.
posted by Melismata 03 June | 19:18
Would it count if we could cure acute radiation syndrome? If radiation wasn't harmful, maybe we could use more nuclear power without the health risks.
posted by mullacc 03 June | 20:10
I'd want to look at statistics of what diseases are killing the most people worldwide. Some diseases are horrible, some diseases are well-known and publicized, but I honestly don't know, for example, if cancer kills more people than malaria.

If I was basing it on my own experience, I'd choose either HIV or cancer, and hell yeah I'd halt progress for 15 years to cure one of those. 15 years is a blip in history, but curing one of those would be HUGE.

But as I said, I'd want to know what the deadliest disease in the world actually is, and then that's the one I would cure. And I would do it regardless what the disease is- like I said, 15 years isn't that long in the grand scheme of things, and humanity would benefit for the rest of time.
posted by BoringPostcards 03 June | 20:15
Cancer, if I could blanket it all under one disease. Imagine the possibilities if cancer was eradicated - all the various forms. BoringPostcards is right: 15 years is just a hiccup in the span of time, but curing cancer would benefit all humanity forever.
posted by redvixen 03 June | 20:45
I think I would go with HIV/AIDS. I would be surprised if HIV/AIDS was not more deadly worldwide than cancer.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 03 June | 22:17
TPS, I am not an epidemiologist by a long shot, but I bet cancer is a far worse killer than AIDS. F&$@ cancer in it's a$&h@&$ is what I say. That is what I would cure, to the detriment of all other diseases, no freaking doubt.
posted by msali 04 June | 00:14
I'd be more interested in finding a prevention for a disease, rather than a cure. Because with, say, cancer, what makes a body turn on itself and start eating its own cells away? If I could find out why and stop the process from ever starting, then there'd be no need for a cure.
posted by Senyar 04 June | 00:43
Here is a relevant wikipedia page.
Even if we had all the nuclear power we could want, we would still eventually hit a resource barrier of some sort - I believe that we have to learn to live within our means, and that's a lot less than many folks are willing to admit.
(I am losing more respect for The Book of Questions with every Friday Night)

The best "book of questions" -style question I can think of off the top of my head would be a plot summary of a clockwork orange. Maybe we should start coming up with our own?
posted by aniola 04 June | 04:23
I vote for cancer. Cancer is a jerk.
posted by fancyoats 04 June | 06:45
Hrm. Well the HIV infection rate fell over the last decade, so maybe infection control measures are doing something. So I might go for cancer, if I could do all the cancers. Otherwise malaria.
posted by gaspode 04 June | 07:35
Kneejerk answer: Cancer
Answer based on personal experience: Alzheimers...'cause my mom has it and the experience is horrible for everyone involved. And, besides, they have effective treatments for some forms of cancer. They have no fucking clue why or how Alzheimers happens, and no treatment actually does squat to stop it.)
posted by Thorzdad 04 June | 08:39
Cancer isn't a single disease. Even cancers that sound related, like various forms of breast cancer, are often entirely different illnesses. Each type of cancer requires a different treatment, which is why some are under control and some are completely uncontrollable. If you can cure "one disease" only, I suspect you can't pick cancer. You'd need to pick one variety.

Researchers are testing cures for hundreds of illnesses every year. Every year we learn more and come closer to cures for major diseases. There are some heavy killers, but progress is being made on the ones that are really huge already; it's possible that in another fifteen years they'll have significant progress enough already, without needing to suppress the hundreds--thousands--of other potential cures that will come along during that time.

Those of you who know people with Alzheimer's, are they participating in research studies? The studies may not be able to help your friends/relatives, but the knowledge they gain can help the children of your loved ones who may develop Alzheimer's themselves. Alzheimer's is so difficult, what it really really needs is as many study participants as possible to get the useful data that will lead to treatments.

My FIL, and his father, both participated in research for as long as they could. Not for themselves, but for their children. They weren't able to come up with anything useful in time to help my FIL, but maybe they'll be able to use what they've learned before my husband and his siblings are in danger.
posted by galadriel 04 June | 09:17
The debate on this topic rages on at our house. I say HIV/AIDS, stynxno says cancer. The contagion factor of HIV/AIDS is part of what makes it my choice- mothers with HIV pass it on to their babies.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 05 June | 17:28
The way the question is framed is interesting - presumably, you don't add to overall funding, you just funnel all the funding to one disease of your choice. Well, I don't trust myself to make this choice. I think it's probably much better that funding is broad-based and applied to a diversity of diseases; it seems likely to me that more diseases will ultimately be cured by a broad-based approach than by spending everything on one disease. Some diseases may be relative 'bargains', for instance, to learn to cure, while others may actually be incurable no matter the amount of funding, because of their genetic nature. Spreading funding around helps to make progress in all areas at once without starving any one effort due to waht would perhaps be a misguided focus on one personally upsetting disease. From the greatest-good perspective, it's possible we can cure several diseases at once by spreading funding around, rather than cure one selected disease by focusing on it. In fact, we do.
posted by Miko 05 June | 22:40
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