The article argues, based on cancer survival statistics, that "scientists should stop trying to cure cancer and start focusing on finding it early." The author notes that in the case of ovarian cancer, for example, discovery at stage I or II the 10-year survival rate is almost 90%, while the survival if diagnosis occurs later - at stage III or IV - drops dramatically to 20%. This makes sense. In early stages, before cancer has metastasized and spread, straightforward surgical intervention can remove most - if not all - of the cancer. Once it has spread, it is more difficult to treat and options are limited to more harsh chemo and radiation treatments.
The article, however, ignores another reality of the numbers it cites: early detection will improve survival rates even without any other intervention. The reason is the way cancer survival is reported. Typically survival is measured as relative 5-year survival, meaning the percentage of people still alive five years after diagnosis, compared with the general population. Early detection shifts the goalposts: the 5-year window now starts at an earlier stage. Even if these people have exactly the same progression as someone with a late-stage diagnosis, the survival rates will look much better.
Of course, we don't want to give up on early detection any more than improving treatment options. We do, on the other hand, want to understand what the numbers mean and how they're derived before we start changing policies or strategies based on them. Ideally with a combination of early detection and improved intervention we can start using intervals longer than 5 years as our standard measure of cancer survival.