May 22, 1987

General Accounting Office Report on Cancer Survival Statistics Raises NCI Hackles

JAMA. 1987;257(20):2692-2693. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390200014003

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"CANCER PATIENT SURVIVAL: what progress has been made?" is a question that has been widely debated within the medical community for the last few years. It is also the title of a document released last month by the US General Accounting Office (GAO).

The GAO is the organization that exposed the Pentagon's imprudent spending habits a few years ago. It therefore seemed a good arbiter for the dispute between the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has claimed major advances toward eradicating cancer, and its critics, who charge that progress has been negligible. Many observers expected the report to deliver the definitive answer its title promised.

It didn't. Instead, the GAO said merely that it accepts the NCI's survival statistics, but doesn't agree with the institute's interpretation of them. It stated that "advances in the detection and treatment of cancer from 1950 to 1982 have extended patient survival in all but