During the last 50 years, clinical cancer research has often been criticized for employing an oversimplified or "magic bullet" approach to finding the cause of human cancer and defining its treatment. More importantly, with the acquisition of more detailed knowledge, investigators have often tended to "lose the forest for the trees" and now risk losing the "trees for the leaves." The most important "forest," in the study of human cancer, is the accumulation of observations that result from a careful study of the natural histories and treatment outcomes of patients with these diseases. Although inherently obvious, it is often forgotten that, by definition, the most relevant natural or designed experiments in human cancer occur in human beings. A new term, translational research, has been coined to emphasize the importance of the study of human cancer within the framework of observations pertinent to the natural history and treatment outcome of patients.
Trees F, Ensley JF. Molecular Medicine. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1993;119(11):1173–1177. doi:10.1001/archotol.1993.01880230011002
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