"I couldn't tell them anything about their daughter's disease. I couldn't tell them what had caused it or why. I could offer some encouraging words about therapies that may potentially help, but what they really wanted to know was why."
The young intern was helpless to explain why cancer had stricken a four year-old child. Eventually, Dr. Bert Vogelstein left behind the daily practice of medicine to devote his career to uncovering the genetic causes of cancer, the specific mutations of the DNA molecule that cause cancer in humans.
For years, he was unable to obtain funding for this research, as proposal after proposal was turned down by review boards who believed the project impossible. Scrounging for funds to finance the research, Vogelstein and his team finally isolated the exact molecular variation responsible for colon cancer. Today, the search for other cancer-causing genes is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical research, and Bert Vogelstein's papers on the subject are the most-quoted scientific writings in the world.