Bloom Mark. "Cancer M.D.'s Clash Over Interleukin Therapy," Science 235 (9 January 1987),
Battles are not uncommon in science. Here is a note of another battle in contemporary science:
there are those physicians who favor continued experimentation with Interleukin-2 therapy, in
spite of the dangers to patients. To these enthusiasts, the potential is great and outweighs the risks
of side effects. There are others, equally qualified, who argue that the side effects of this therapy
are too high. The champion of the continued use of the substance is Steven Rosenberg, of the
National Cancer Institute. Opposing its use is Charles Moertel, of the Mayo Clinic. He is
opposed because of the "devastating toxic reactions."
The reference here is to "heroic medicine." There are those who say that medicine demonstrates
its power by doing heroic things, trying even those things which are dangerous to the patient.
This was practical advice in an age when the physician had to prove that he did more than wait
for Nature to take its course. Rosenberg wants to show that the NCI is doing its best to cure
cancer. The Mayo Clinic people are suggesting that the therapy does not justify its use. The
arguments have little, if anything, to do with the substance of the therapy and a great deal to do
with the social organizations involved.