December 30, 2012

$PVCT: Well, I'll ask him, but I don't think he will be very keen. Uh, he's already got one, you see.

King Arthur: Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail. 
French Soldier: Well, I'll ask him, but I don't think he will be very keen. Uh, he's already got one, you see. 
King Arthur: What? 
Sir Galahad: He said they've already got one! 
King Arthur: Are you sure he's got one? 
French Soldier: Oh yes, it's very nice! 

Google {"holy grail" cancer} and you get a long list of stuff. Like with many phrases, the "Holy Grail of [insert of what here]" often (usually, always) is far from the Grail itself. The phrase is ill-used, misused and overused.

What is the Grail? A dish, plate, stone, or cup used by Jesus Christ during The Last Supper and, possibly, later used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect Jesus' blood upon his removal from the cross upon which he had hung. Grail literature divides into two classes. The first concerns King Arthur’s knights visiting the Grail castle or questing after the object; the second concerns the Grail’s history in the time of Joseph of Arimathea. I sourced and copied most of this from the Holy Grail's Wikipedia entry.

In our current lexicon, what does "holy grail" mean? "An object or goal that is sought after for its great significance" Example: "Finding a cure for cancer is the holy grail of medical researchers."

What does "the holy grail for cancer" mean?
Holy Grail this. Holy Grail that. Multiple Holy Grails (i.e., Kwon's comment above). "The Grail is, or becomes, all things to all seekers."

The treatment that is holy grail for cancer is very effective and very safe. Since there was only one grail, cancer's holy grail also is viable for for multiple indications. Many of the illustrative stories and links above suggest their respective grail targets only diseased, cancerous tissue, and avoids or leaves untouched normal or healthy tissue.

Fareed Zakaria, in a December 10, 2012 interview on Fareed Zakaria GPS of Dr. Ronald DePinho, M.D., President of MD Anderson's cancer center, said "The holy grail for cancer would be to trigger the body’s own immune system to fight off the cancer, so that you somehow stimulate the antibodies in a way that that happens." The treatment that is the holy grail for cancer is not the grail itself. Rather, the grail is what the treatment inspires, produces, engenders, induces, etc.: a strong, durable, portable immune-mediated response.

Is the Grail priceless in material terms? Think about the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Walter Donovan, the wealthy American industrialist and collector of antiquities who allied himself with the Nazis in order to get the Holy Grail.

Just like Indy's not-so-poor choice of nondescript chalice, the treatment that is holy grail for cancer is inexpensive to make and produce.

The grail is a story about the grail itself, and the journey or quest to seek and find it. For example, the grail is first featured in Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail). de Troyes "...refers to the story as the greatest ever told in any court. His opening scenes are full of color and verve. He tells of his hero's blunders and gaucheries with a keen comic sensitivity of effect. He invests the encounter with the Fisher King with just the right amount of awe and reverence mixed in with the mystery and strangeness. And Chretien is equally successful with the startling appearance of the Loathly Damsel and her violent denunicaion of Perceval, whose growth from boyish boorishness to knightly grace has been well drawn and realized."

The story of the grail is a hero's journey. "The hero is challenged to step out of everyday life and to search for a "treasure": a greater understanding. After many trials and with unexpected help, the hero finds the treasure and he goes back home to share it with others and -- in doing so -- contributes something substantial."

Knights over decades and centuries have sought their own holy grail. The climax of the quests, it would seem, is when the protagonists ask, among other questions: "“What validates the quest?” Why am I doing this?"

P. L. Travers, long a student of the mythic and symbolic dimensions of the human search and the author of the ­wonderful “Mary Poppins” stories, gives us a glimpse of one of the heroes of the Arthurian cycle, the young Perceval, as he learns for the first time of the final stage of the knight’s quest. In her powerful story, “Le Chevalier Perdu”, Perceval meets a mysterious cowled figure that describes the three stages of Knighthood. The stages of Induction and Action hold no mystery even for the simpleton. But Perceval has not yet understood the last phase of the journey.
"Inwards. Into the heart of your­self. This is the third degree of Knighthood. It is known as Contemplation. This does not mean retreat from the world...rather that in undertaking his worldly adventures he encounters them also inwardly. “Who am I?’ he will enquire of himself, ‘this man who goes about righting wrongs?” Echo alone will make reply....So it is with the dragons, the ill-famed knights, the dis­tressed damsels, the fiends. They have their reflections in the inner selves that need to be struggled with, exorcised, and, indeed, accepted. The quest from the very beginning has had as its aim the knight’s self-transformation. Only one made new by grace or made anew by his own efforts will find what he has sworn to find, a glimpse of the Sangreál."
Ultimately, the grail is just a story of a journey. Perhaps in this case, the journey is the journeys of many different individuals and constituents (principals, a No. 4, shareholders, etc.) within the fabric of one journey itself: Provectus Pharmaceuticals.
What the hero’s tale – echoed in countless cultures – may most powerfully suggest is that we all stand at the threshold, having heard the call. Still reluctant, we know at the deepest level that the journey beckons and that we must set out. (Jim Kenney, The Hero's Quest & the Holy Grail)

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