Published 1961 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From The Office of UNITED STATES SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD Room 342, Old Senate Office Building, Washington 25, D. C. Volume I--Number 14 BYRD' EYE VIEW A Public Service Column By SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD N. I. H. SPEARHEADS COMING NEW BREAKTHROUGHS IN HEALTH Before 1970 rolls around, Americans may no longer be troubled by the common cold, and their chances of getting a heart attack may be reduced by more than 50 per cent. Moreover, cancer may become as remote a threat as polio now is, and our life expectancy, now 69.9 years, may be extended to at least 72 years. In short, the secrets of a host of killing and crippling diseases may be uncovered, and, in the main, conquered, before the current decade ends, thanks to the work of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, and to the research they sponsor through grants of money. Already, more than 1,275,000 Americans are alive today, who otherwise would have died, because of recent dramatic inroads in research in the killing and crippling diseases. Millions more will be saved tomorrow by the new medical pathways being uncovered by our scientists. A little over 10 year ago, there was no effective drug for reducing high blood pressure, or for dissolving blood clots that cause thrombosis, or for reducing edema in blood associated with heart failure, or for coping with rheumatic heart fever. Today, a wide variety of drugs is available for treating those conditions, thus enabling afflicted Americans to enjoy longer, useful living. Now scientists are on the threshold of licking the biggest heart killer of them all, arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. At the National Institutes of Health, researchers have found new drugs that substantially reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, the substance largely responsible for hardening of arteries. These drugs, still being laboratory tested, hold tremendous hope for conquering this killer. Not satisfied with this important step, which alone could save countless thousands of lives, NIH scientists are seeking ways of freeing arteries from cholesterol deposits already there. Their finding may soon enable doctors to prescribe a medicine that will “freshen” arteries, clean them out, so to speak. In any event, the secrets of the blood's chemistry are slowly but surely being unlocked at NIH, and each new step advanced leads our scientists to another to be taken. The strides against cancer, at NIH, have been phenomenal, too. A few years ago, survival chances from this malignancy were hardly worth mentioning. Today, one out of every three cancer patients survives five years or more. Tomorrow, it may be one out of two, or even better. Already one particularly virulent and fast-acting form of cancer is being successfully cured at the NIH hospital, cancer of the placenta and female reproductive organs. The drug being used, still in the experimental stage, is methotrexate. Where it has been used on female patients suffering from these forms of cancer, the malignancy has completely disappeared! In the four years of its experimental use, patients treated with it have no recurring symptoms of cancer. Cancer, in general, is still a riddle to our scientists. As a medical problem, however, its solution comes closer with each passing day. NIH scientists are now pursuing research in viruses as possible causes of cancer. This is a vexing research problem, because there are hundreds of different viruses to isolate, then identify. The task after that would be to develop an antibiotic or vaccine to deal with the viruses. Meanwhile, NIH has been making new advances in the battle against arthritis, rheumatism, and multiple sclerosis in the study of brain chemistry and the causes of mental illnesses, all of which mean that before the current decade ends, Americans will be enjoying better health and greater freedom from disease than the world has ever known.