Angels and Cancer

Dr. Richard Frank—

Cancer is a medical condition that affects the human body (and other species). Scientists can break it down into its component molecular parts, the DNA and proteins that go awry. Oncologists can categorize it by type and stage and list the treatments for each condition. These are the cold hard facts of cancer. So, what do angels have to do with cancer?

I learned about angels and cancer in a beautiful article entitled "Waiting Room Angel," just published in Wilton Magazine by Christine Baer. Ms. Baer relates how she was in her oncologist's waiting room when she overheard an older man anxiously awaiting a follow-up meeting with his oncologist. When she heard the man state that he had decided against treatment, she instinctively spoke up and advised him to do otherwise; after all, she was a survivor of stage 4 lymphoma. You will have to read the article to learn how this turned out but suffice it to say that the man now considers Christine to be his angel. 

Angels have their origins in biblical texts and they hold great spiritual importance for many. They are defined as supernatural beings intermediary between God and man or merely as someone who is a guiding spirit or influence in one's life. I most commonly hear the term used to refer to a person who does something purely good or extraordinary for someone else, sometimes a person they do not even know.

When we face great challenges in our lives we turn to our friends and family for guidance and search our souls for the right answer. But sometimes, just sometimes, we need that angel to come out of nowhere and shake our foundation into clarity. We all need a Christine at times.

Richard C. Frank, M.D., is director of cancer research at the Whittingham Cancer Center of Norwalk Hospital, medical director of Mid-Fairfield Hospice, and Clinical Assistant Attending at Weill Cornell Medical College. He has been appointed cancer expert for WebMD and was named a “Top Doc” in the New York Metro area by Castle and Connelly.

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5 Discussions on
“Angels and Cancer”
  • Dear Dr. Frank,
    I recently read an article (believe it was in the NY Times) which said there was a new way of viewing cancer development. Essentially it said that it wasn’t the rogue (mutated) cell which was responsible for cancer development, but the cells surrounding it that allowed the mutated cell to develop. What do you think of this theory?
    M. Brooks

  • Dear Meg,
    Thank you for your important and thoughtful question.
    As I indicate in the initial chapters of my book, if cancer can be viewed as “the seed” then the surrounding organs to which a cancer cell spreads can be thought of as “the soil.” For decades, the seed was the only focus of researchers but that has changed mightily and there is an explosion of research into how organs help cancer cells grow and how the immune system attempts to control cancer.
    Examples of successful efforts in studying the soil include an entire array of new angiogenesis inhibitor drugs that prevent organs from helping cancer cells form the critical blood supply that they need to grow; Avastin, Sutent, Nexavar, Pazopanib are but a few examples of FDA approved cancer fighting drugs in this category. And the drug Zometa has been found to prevent the spread of breast cancer cells (prevent the development of metastases) in women with early stages of the disease; Zometa inhibits bone breakdown so it was a great surprise that it can prevent not just the spread of cancer to bone but to other organs as well.
    Many more successes will come from studying the soil or the rest of the body as it relates to cancer.

  • All those who are working for the welfare of human life are angels. Being an angel myself, I believe that such people should get institutional support for their survivals. After all angels plays very important role in the society.

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