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Canada Medicine

Cheap Cancer Drug Finally Tested In Humans 363

Posted by timothy
from the good-enough-for-the-likes-of-you dept.
John Bayko writes "Mentioned on Slashdot a couple of years ago, the drug dichloroacetate (DCA) has finally finished its first clinical trial against brain tumors in humans. Drug companies weren't willing to test a drug they could not patent, so money was raised in the community through donations, auctions, and finally government support, but the study was still limited to five patients. It showed extremely positive results in four of them. This episode raises the question of what happens to all the money donated to Canadian and other cancer societies, and especially the billions spent buying merchandise with little pink ribbons on it, if not to actual cancer research like this."
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Cheap Cancer Drug Finally Tested In Humans

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  • Cure? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:20PM (#32200244)
    There is no money in a cure....
    • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SomeJoel (1061138) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:22PM (#32200268)

      There is no money in a cure....

      That's a common misconception. While there isn't much direct money involved in a cure, the drug companies still come out way ahead. If people don't die (and aren't even sick really) from cancer, they are more likely to buy other products, such as Viagra, that the drug companies are pushing.

      • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:32PM (#32200436)

        Viagra is another example of treating the symptoms and not resolving the problem.

        Thats what drug companies love the most, treating the symptoms only and not doing anything to resolve the actual problem.

        There is no profit in cures, just treat the symptoms and make them dependent on you.

        • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Informative)

          by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:51PM (#32200720)

          There is no profit in cures, just treat the symptoms and make them dependent on you.

          You're missing the author's point. Your two combined statements would read as:

          There is no profit in cures, except wherein the condition would result in the death of the patient.

          Dead patient means no more profit. Yeah?

          • Re:Cure? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by sjames (1099) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:33PM (#32201220) Homepage

            Generic drug means very little profit (comparatively speaking). Patented drug is a lot of profit. Unless, of course, there is a safe and equally effective generic drug already out there. So, they would MUCH prefer no existing treatment while they try to cook up an expensive designer drug.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Generic drug means very little profit (comparatively speaking). Patented drug is a lot of profit. Unless, of course, there is a safe and equally effective generic drug already out there. So, they would MUCH prefer no existing treatment while they try to cook up an expensive designer drug.

              While there is much truth in your statement, you must take into consideration the enormous risk and cost of bringing a new drug to market. So in some ways, generic drugs still make a lot of profit because there is virtually no risk or overhead in the process.

          • by transporter_ii (986545) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:33PM (#32202872) Homepage

            Biochemist Zheng Cui’s had grants and funding while researching cancer, but after he found a very promising approach to fight cancer -- it worked so well that he planed to move to human trials -- all the money dried up. Here is what he said:

            There is some private funding and the university put some funding into it. And also, at early stages when we studied the mechanisms of these mice, we had one Mitchell Cancer Institute grant, several small grants from Cancer Research Institute. But they all stopped funding me. It was kind of a strange situation. I thought it was our common goal to come up with a new weapon to fight cancer, but the moment I announced I had a new weapon to test in real human cancer situations, everybody shied away.

            Very interesting interview that can be read here: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/4273366 [popularmechanics.com]

            None dare call it a conspiracy!

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by nbauman (624611)

              Biochemist Zheng Cui’s had grants and funding while researching cancer, but after he found a very promising approach to fight cancer -- it worked so well that he planed to move to human trials -- all the money dried up.

              http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/4273366 [popularmechanics.com]

              Popular Mechanics is not the best source for a comprehensive report on new cancer research, but as best as I can figure out that interview he seems to be describing something that's been used for 50 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hematopoietic_stem_cell_transplantation [wikipedia.org]

              I know about this because I had a friend with leukemia who was looking for a donor with a match. I wanted to join the donor registry myself (not for my friend, which was very unlikely, but because it was possible that somebody somewhere i

              • by yamfry (1533879) on Friday May 14, 2010 @07:24AM (#32205806)
                The stem cell transplants currently used for leukemias and lymphomas involves completely eradicating the host immune system through chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Then a donor stem cell is implanted and is used to replace the host immune system (which will hopefully be completely eradicated and not pumping out cancer cells). Dr Cui's research is a little different. He is keeping the host immune system intact, but is taking sample immune cells from donors with cancer resistance and injecting them into the host. The goal is that the donor cells will kill the cancer but not the rest of the host's cells which leads to GVHD [wikipedia.org]. This seems to work for solid tumours in rats. A good summary of is research is here [pnas.org].
                In the US, the usual FDA process for drug approval is to go through 3 phases of human trials (then a mandatory phase 4 during which adverse event data from the wild is gathered and analyzed). There is a Fast Track [fda.gov] program at the FDA for serious diseases where there is a need for treatment options. This allows drugs to get approved faster by skipping steps and using surrogate end points instead of proving complete efficacy and safety.
                I'd be interested to hear the reasons that grants were not given to continue this research. It might have something to do with there not being a specific mechanism of action identifiable in his experiments. In his interview he admits that he has no idea why it works, but it seems to work. Sciency people don't like things like that. They probably have a better reason than "it seems a little hokey", though.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gr8Apes (679165)

          After reading TFA, it does not appear that this is a cure per se, just that it halts the growth of active tumors. It seems that much more research is needed.

          So, where's the Gates Foundation on this one? It seems a perfect avenue for them to do some good for humanity with only a small amount of money spent.

        • by pushf popf (741049) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:18PM (#32202308)
          It turns out that guys that need Viagra are at a hugely increased risk of a heat attack in the next few years. The same blocked arteries that make it difficult to get an erection are a needed for other functions such as "living". Erectile Dysfunction is a really great indicator for severe Coronary Artery Disease.

          Doctors are taking the easy way out and handing out boner pills instead of scheduling tests to see how long is is before the patient goes in for the "last roundup".
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Your argument falls apart when it comes to chemotherapy. That is purely done to cure. The side effects are often much worse then the general discomfort of cancer aside from the finally dieing part. My father finally said no more. He wanted to live his last few months with at least some energy and well being.

      • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:39PM (#32200562)

        My dad ha(s|d) cancer.

        ONE chemo bag is $18k. I think he gets 3 per month until it goes into remission.

        I guarantee you there is no way in hell he'd ever spend that much on Viagra or any other drug that someone could possibly use if he lived.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ameline (771895)

          > there is no way in hell he'd ever spend that much on Viagra

          Of course he wouldn't -- he would spend 6k on the hookers, 6 on the viagra, and 6 on the blow. :-)

          (I hope your dad gets well.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ArsonSmith (13997)

            If you're paying $6,000 on a hooker you may want to get more than $6 worth of Viagra and blow.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Now imagine how much a company could charge for a cure?

          They could charge 40K, and the insurance companies would be happy to pay.

          Mom mom is going through chemo. The number of whack a loons that come out of the wood work just drives me nuts.

        • Not everybody gets cancer, or dies from it. There are a lot of other diseases or problems that humans are subject to that the drug companies develop and sell possible remedies for. While it might be true in your Dad's case, it's not necessarily going to be true for when applied across everyone.

          I hope your Dad gets well, too. I just lost another friend (6 in four years now) to cancer a few months ago, and it still hurts. Best wishes for him and your family.

          (I used to think that the

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by westlake (615356)

          I guarantee you there is no way in hell he'd ever spend that much on Viagra or any other drug that someone could possibly use if he lived

          Your Dad perhaps not.

          The kid diagnosed with cancer at age ten who survives into his mid-eighties? That's a much tougher question to answer.

          What would you be willing to pay over twenty-five years, fifty years, for a greatly extended, vigorous and productive, old age free of cancer, heart disease and stroke, arthritis, diabeties, Alzheimer's, COPD...? $20K, $50K, $100K? Mor

      • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Funny)

        by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:24PM (#32201130)

        If people don't die (and aren't even sick really) from cancer, they are more likely to buy other products, such as Viagra, that the drug companies are pushing.

        For erections lasting longer than four hours, try new Woodbegone!!!
        Available in "100mg", "200mg", and "Damn, where'd my dick go?" sizes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Martin Blank (154261)

          A friend works in a urology clinic. Based on her descriptions of how priapism is handled, Woodbegone could be a significant seller. (Hint: treatment for aggressive priapism involves the erection and one or two needles. It's done under local anesthetic, but still...)

      • Re:Cure? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by magarity (164372) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:06PM (#32202202)

        There is no money in a cure....

        That's a common misconception

         
        You've mis-concepted the concept; there's a LOT more money for University medical centers in researching cures than there is in actually finding a cure.
         
        The money for merchandise with pink ribbons should go in a bounty pool. Bounties, rather than never ending research grants, are the way to find hard solutions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hhawk (26580)

        I think the real issue is the insurance / liability costs of releasing a drug in the US; we need Tort reform.

    • Re:Cure? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:22PM (#32200278)

      I hate to say it but I'm starting to agree with this. Why would any pharmaceutical company EVER want to actually cure something when they could hook people on treatments for life.

      Especially if they can't patent it, or it's inexpensive.

    • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:47PM (#32200666)

      There is no money in a cure....

      Skepticism is always warranted with an industry as large, corrupt, but ultimately essential as the pharmaceutical industry. Still, that goes into paranoia. No money in a cure? Perhaps you missed the very last line of TFA

      [glioblastoma patient] average survival is 14 to 16 months with standard treatments.

      This is not a disease that the industry is making money off stringing along patients rather than curing them. There's no stringing along. You die of it. You never become a continuous customer for the drug company. Hospitals might make a lot of money from them, and I don't know the standard treatment. I'd guess it's more surgical and pallative care with glioblastoma.

      The second to last line also speaks against the idea that the cure is being suppressed: a quote by some professional suggesting that the drug would extend the lives of these patients. Not cure, extend. If you were right and they just want people to hang on to suck up more treatment, they'd be aggressively testing this, possibly in combination with a drug they -can- patent and make a bunch of money off of.

      Anyway, any given research team has a huge interest in a bona-fide cure for cancer. That would probably be the quickest awarded nobel prize right there. Even if you were working for a company that had a financial interest in not actually curing cancer and you'd get fired, you wouldn't sit on it.

      • Re:Cure? (Score:4, Funny)

        by bunratty (545641) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:10PM (#32200952)
        You clearly have no idea of the magnitude of the conspiracy to suppress the cure for cancer. All those cancer researchers just want to get rich from the grant money by doing more "research"!
      • by sjames (1099)

        Here the point is simple. They don't want a cheap generic drug to be proven helpful, they want an expensive patented drug that does the same thing. That's why none of them have spent any money at all on testing the generic. They'll test just as soon as they get a patent on something they can charge tens of thousands a dose for.

        It's a perfect example of why public funding is absolutely essential to medical research. There is no amount of market manipulation that will make big pharma interested in drugs like

    • by westlake (615356)

      There is no money in a cure....

      Of course there is.

      Your customers die at age ninety and not forty-five. Your investment in a cure just might lead you towards a much deeper ubderstanding of aging and disease.

    • There is no money in a cure....

      How so? Just because you cure current people of cancer doesn't mean that more people aren't still going to develop it too. Considering how people are living longer and longer the probability of cancer of this individual getting cancer of some form goes up. The drug companies still have a huge potential supply of people to sell the cure to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      FALSE.

      Lets look at this, shall we?
      A cure boost stock prices, hurts you competitors, and gets C*Os a ton of cash in the form of bonuses. i.e. get stinking rich.

      Unless top management is so kind hearted that want to be sure revenue is around for there predecessor and other companies your statement make no sense.

    • Re:Cure? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sqldr (838964) on Friday May 14, 2010 @05:48AM (#32205398)

      There is no money in a cure....

      That depends if you're trying to make money, or save money and more importantly fulfill your mandate to save lives, and this all depends on whether you're a drugs company or a national health service

      This came up a couple of years ago in the UK when an American drugs company came up with a treatment (can't remember the name) for various types of cancers which had a 20% chance of prolonging the life or a patient for between 6 and 18 month for the paltry sum of £50000/year per patient, not to mention the rather unpleasant side-effects. They were denied the treatment on the NHS (except nobody was stopping them buying it privately except personal wealth, or digging into the inheritance funds).

      The documentary cut to footage of crying relatives angrily talking about how their children missed out on another year of being able to see their grandparent because the NHS which they had paid for through national insurance all of their lives had denied them this drug ("if they'd just had the XYZ then they could have seen them for longer!"), etc.

      It then cuts to an NHS funds manager talking about budget and how they have the highest level of pregnancy deaths in the country and the treatment for many of those incidents which could save the entire life of a child is much cheaper. The NHS budget is calculated according to its effect on quality of life, scored as "QUALS". These guys are the ones whom Sarah Palin refers to as the "death squads". Could have been worse.. under a private healthcare scheme, the insurance company death squads would probably have let the babies die for the sake of the 6 months of a bed-bound terminal cancer patient.

      It then cuts to the manufacturers of this drug, in their massive marble-sided Chicago skyscraper, having a massive champagne-fueled banquet, handing out awards to eachother for their "life-saving" work in creating this rather ineffectual drug.

      One might wonder what the first family would have thought if the reason for their children not seeing their grandparent was because it was the CHILDREN who were ill, who couldn't get treatment because the NHS had just spaffed £50000 on a drug which just made someone ill for an extra 6 months. And what about the 70 year old who is going to live for another 15 years and would love to spend those 15 years being able to walk properly after receiving an expensive hip-replacement operation? Nah.. cancer is like the poster boy of illnesses. The old "why aren't you curing cancer?" poke at the ignoble awards is getting tiresome.

      So from where I stand, I've not got cancer, or MS, or Parkinsons (dementia is VERY badly funded.. all the charity money goes to breast cancer these days), or anything else.. YET, but I'm hedging my bets by saying that I hope that my national insurance money is going towards what is most likely to save me the most grief, rather than paying for more champagne and marble skyscrapers. In that respect, a CHEAP cure for cancer sounds bloody brilliant, and I hope the NHS invest heavily in it. In the long run, that will free up more money to research all the other horrible diseases we might get.

      There is huge incentive for the NHS to invest in cheap drugs, because that's their job. Private healthcare doesn't really have this moral obligation.

  • Where else (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It does to administration and hosting all those ridiculous charity events.

    • Re:Where else (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:36PM (#32200494) Homepage
      A lot of the big charities these days seem to be focused on "awareness" rather than "finding a cure". This basically sounds like giving money to these people so they can run more ads to get more money. At what point do we decide people are "aware" enough and start actually trying to cure these diseases? I don't care how many people are aware of breast cancer, I care how fast it takes to come up with a cure for breast cancer.

      The big offenders I've seen are breast cancer awareness and autism awareness. Why do we need to give money to make people more aware of these conditions? Everyone is already as aware as they need to be! Stop spending money on awareness and start spending it on research!

      Of course, once a charity reaches a certain size, its primary goal becomes self-preservation, and finding a cure for these things would threaten that goal.
      • Re:Where else (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:56PM (#32200784)

        The big offenders I've seen are breast cancer awareness and autism awareness. Why do we need to give money to make people more aware of these conditions? Everyone is already as aware as they need to be! Stop spending money on awareness and start spending it on research!

        I can't speak for breast cancer, but my youngest son is autistic. Lack of awareness leads people to assume he's retarded, or a brat, or both. My nephew has Downs and I frequently envy his parents on the simple fact that they don't really need to spend a lot of time explaining how their child is different. My own son gets a mixed result of surprise and disgust when he doesn't live up to the standards his appearance would dictate.

        Thankfully he's not really all that aware of how people treat him...

        But awareness isn't all bad...

        • Re:Where else (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:29PM (#32201168)

          My baby brother has autism, he's 18 and operates at a 12 year old level. He's not stupid, but he is definitely developmentally retarded.

          Seriously, if you don't think that autism is a retardation then there is something really wrong with your world view.

          Heck, just look up the words.

          Autism == a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.

          Impair == make worse or less effective
          Restrict == restrain within bounds; to limit; to confine;

          Restrain == to close within bounds, limit or hold back from movement;

          Retard == cause to move more slowly or operate at a slower rate

          Quit trying to convince yourself that it's not as bad as it is. Accept that it's bad, and then fix it.
          Denial on your part just limits the possible solutions that you will aloow him to enjoy.

        • Re:Where else (Score:5, Interesting)

          by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:36PM (#32201262) Journal

          Lack of awareness leads people to assume he's retarded, or a brat, or both.

          Autism often goes hand in hand with mental retardation, and it can cause the sufferer to act like a brat. Either way, autism is a mental fault and someone who is autistic or who has an autistic family member cannot expect the autistic person to be treated as if he is any more *special* than someone who just happens to be born, say, with a low-to-average IQ. In other words, "retardation" is also something you are usually born with, and it's no worse to be "assumed" retarded than it is to be "assumed" autistic.

          My nephew has Downs and I frequently envy his parents on the simple fact that they don't really need to spend a lot of time explaining how their child is different.

          Why does it bother you so much what strangers think? Perhaps you should take a lesson from your son.

          • Re:Where else (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:34PM (#32203216)

            Parent is correct: I've got a "retarded" (learning/developmental disorder) child and there's nothing more frustrating than meeting a parent whose kid has a different disability coming out with the equivalent of "at least my kid's not a retard".

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by BitwiseX (300405)

          My own son gets a mixed result of surprise and disgust when he doesn't live up to the standards his appearance would dictate.

          Amen. My best friend from middle school through high school (and beyond if he hadn't have passed on) had Muscular Dystrophy. He was physically retarded, not mentally. Our own wonderful school system even tried to put him in a "special ed" class. Idiots. Every time I hear someone refer to a mentally challenged individual as one of "Jerry's kids" I want to punch them in the face.

          So when I donate to MDA, if some of that money goes to educating someone about MD, I'm all for it. It might even keep me out of j

      • by perrin (891)

        I guess it depends on the charity. I know that some of the largest medical charities here in Norway channel a lot of money to research projects, I have seen some of it, really good stuff. They also spend money on educating patients about their disease and their rights, which too seems a good idea. Not sure if that is what parent posters mean by money going to 'awareness'.

      • by westlake (615356)

        Everyone is already as aware as they need to be! Stop spending money on awareness and start spending it on research!

        Most breast cancer cases are curable, but mammograms are still a must [nydailynews.com]

        If breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is above 90%.

        Because of screening, about 25% of breast cancer is caught early at the stage of non-invasive cancer, which is very treatable. Studies show that mammography reduces the risk of death from breast cancer by 15%.

        Doctors recommend annual mammograms for women ove

    • by toppavak (943659)
      More often than not it ends up in the hands of for-profit drug companies one way or another. Even the money that goes to fund research in academic labs eventually is used to patent the drug compounds by the university and an exclusive license is granted to a pharma company with few or no strings attached about ensuring that the drug is brought to market in a way that actually ensures access to patients. It's kind of a sick process when you think about it since the incentives for all parties involved (scient
  • but... but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:21PM (#32200260)

    what about the magical free market fairies!!!

    • by fusiongyro (55524)

      The free market doesn't have to be perfect, just a lot better than the alternatives. Which it is.

      • by ebuck (585470)
        Remember that at least one of the alternatives is "the perfect market". Free market can't be better than that!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by yuriyg (926419)
      I'll take free market fairies over government bureaucrats anytime.
  • Spelling. (Score:2, Funny)

    by saintlupus (227599)

    Tumours? Does this only work on Canadian cancer patients?

    --saint

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:22PM (#32200282)

    Most of the time it goes to organizations the give out grants to companies to do the research and testing. Unfortunately what happens is it gets given out to Glaxo and the like, which then uses the money to research and test ... and patent what they come up with.

    Some of the money goes to universities who research it, patent it, and sell it to drug companies so they can raise their own salaries.

    This would be all fine and dandy if the drug companies gave back.

    They do give back, but they don't give back anything like they get. They give back just enough to say 'we give back' in little strategic bits that make for good publicity.

    • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:25PM (#32200328)

      More like curing cancer would put the charities out of business. It's like the March of Dimes. They're goal was to wipe out Polio. When that happen, they didn't exactly fold the tents and go home.

      • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:28PM (#32200370)

        It would also put the drug companies produce the cure in a really crappy spot.

        This is why medical research should be publicly funded and public property.

        • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:17PM (#32201038) Homepage

          This is why medical research should be publicly funded and public property.

          Right. Because the selfless, benevolent government officials will be happy about losing their funding (and risk their cushy government jobs), when the cure is found — unlike those evil corporate drones, out to perpetuate our ills for, dare I say it, profit...

          Back to the question at hand, the money, obviously, goes to raising awareness. Gee, the easiest question in a week!

          • by blueg3 (192743)

            Yeah, we're in serious danger of curing every major disease, thus putting medical researchers out of business.

          • by sjames (1099)

            Unfortunately, we're currently in no danger of running out of things that have no cure, so their job would be safe. If they manage to actually find cures for every known disease, they can just define old-age as a disease and keep going. And the cheaper the actual drugs involved are, the more room there is in the budget for pork.

            It turns out that sometimes the best treatment is simple, cheap, and effective. It would be a shame to let those (and the people who need them) languish while big pharma looks for co

      • by pluther (647209) <pluther@u s a . net> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:33PM (#32200462) Homepage

        Notice, though, that the March of Dimes didn't try to block the Polio vaccine, or lobby against it in any way.

        Instead, they switched to other things to wipe out, and have apparently made great progress on all sorts of various birth defects now...

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:00PM (#32200838) Homepage

        More like curing cancer would put the charities out of business. It's like the March of Dimes. They're goal was to wipe out Polio. When that happen, they didn't exactly fold the tents and go home.

        So... you mean it's like the opposite of the March of Dimes.

        Great example.

    • by SimonInOz (579741) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:19PM (#32201790)

      Basically this is a problem with corporations. They have no morals. The law treats them as pseudo-humans, but they are not.

      In fact, by most definitions, they are psychotic.

      They are incredibly paranoid (with trained attack lawyers), delusional (almost any management meeting), appalling bullies (Microsoft et al), manipulative (marketing, more lawyers), small-minded (the next quarter is the only thing).

      Do I need to go on? And yes, drug companies are among the worst - but think of tobacco companies, oil companies ...

      Company law needs to change in some way to make incorporated entities be more responsible.
      But how?

      • by aminorex (141494) on Friday May 14, 2010 @08:17AM (#32206248) Homepage Journal

        Very simple: Apply penalties for crimes. Apply the death penalty liberally, where death is understood to mean a revokation of the corporate charter, and the return of funds to shareholders after outstanding liabilities are acquitted.

        The problem with corporations is not so much that they are treated as persons, but that they are treated as persons who are above the law. As a society, we fear the creative destruction which is actually beneficial to all.

  • couldn't patent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:25PM (#32200314) Homepage

    Drug companies can patent just about anything, so long as they do the research and file the patent. Example: a drug called Finasteride 5mg, which treats enlarged prostates, was discovered by its maker, Merck, to stop male pattern baldness. But the patent for Finasteride is expired. Merck did some studies and found that a 1mg dose was enough to treat baldness, and got the 1mg dose (Propecia) approved by the FDA. They patented the 1mg dose and to this day, 1mg Finasteride costs $60/month ($2 per pill), whereas 5mg Finasteride pills (the same drug, different dose) is basically free from generic drug manufacturers.

    The moral of the story is that he who does the research gets the patent, even if the chemical itself cannot be patented.

  • >"It also raises the question of where all the money donated to cancer societies [...] goes, if not to actual cancer research like this."

    Apparently a lot of it goes to marketing type stuff trying to convince people to change their lifestyles. At least, that is what I have noticed the most.

  • Money spent on e.g. breast cancer awareness goes towards raising awareness of breast cancer, not to finding a cure or even a treatment. It's the same with every other X cancer awareness non-profit charitable organization.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      Money spent on e.g. breast cancer awareness goes towards raising awareness of breast cancer

      Except some of those charities explicitly say, "For the Cure." [komen.org] If they are spending the money on awareness and not finding a cure, that is flagrant false advertising.

    • Money spent on e.g. breast cancer awareness goes towards raising awareness of breast cancer, not to finding a cure or even a treatment. It's the same with every other X cancer awareness non-profit charitable organization.

      Except that it almost certainly doesn't go fully to raising awareness. Most is probably spent on overheads as with many charities. Such overheads include large expensive buildings, ridiculous salaries for people on the 'board' etc.

      Here in the Netherlands there was an outrage about the

      • Re:Overheads (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:50PM (#32201446)

        A small medical software startup I once worked at had some extra office space we weren't using, which we donated to a local non-profit doing research to help support policy making on health-related issues.

        We were working on folding tables with the cheapest office equipment we could get; they had beautiful wood desks, a huge high-speed copier/fax/scanner, bought (excellent) SNOM VoIP phones compared to the cheapo Grandstreams we were using, and otherwise clearly paid far, far less attention to minimizing their expenses.

    • by pz (113803) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:22PM (#32201096) Journal

      Money spent on e.g. breast cancer awareness goes towards raising awareness of breast cancer, not to finding a cure or even a treatment. It's the same with every other X cancer awareness non-profit charitable organization.

      Also, the amount of money for awareness isn't very large compared to the amount of money required to do human-based research. My small research lab has a relatively modest budget of USD 250k per year (*thank* *you*, NIH, and *thank* *you* to all you taxpayers out there). The total cost my institution will bill the government for my lab over the five years of the grant I have is about $2.25 million, including overhead. Now a couple of million dollars is a gob-smacking amount of money by most individual people's scales, but it's just one small biology lab. We're working with test-tubes, not humans ... at least not yet.

      A hoo-ha-break-out-the-champagne fund raiser would net $1 million. That's a fantastically successful fund raiser. But it would only run my lab for about two years. If I wanted to do a Phase-I clinical trial, it would take two-to-three times that amount of money. Phase-II would be about ten times that. Phase-III is not something that could be done at my home institution alone.

      So public-based fund raising for breast cancer, autism, kidney disease, coronary disease, glaucoma, what-have-you, is wonderful. But it's on the wrong scale to fund research or human drug testing. I'm deeply impressed that anyone was able to raise enough money for an independent drug trial.

  • where does it go? (Score:5, Informative)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:26PM (#32200346)

    >> It also raises the question of where all the money donated to Canadian and other cancer societies, and especially the billions spent buying merchandise with little pink ribbons on it goes, if not to actual cancer research like this."

    Answer:
    http://www.preventcancer.com/losing/acs/wealthiest_links.htm [preventcancer.com]

    • Re:where does it go? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:40PM (#32201314) Homepage

      That article is a bit sketchy, and way out of date. Take a look at this instead: Charity Navigator on the American Cancer Society [charitynavigator.org]

      I trust Charity Navigator a lot more than thus guy. His site looks like a non-profit organization, but it seems to be just one guy looking for a way to sell his own books. All the publications [preventcancer.com] on the site are written by this one guy, Samuel Epstein. [preventcancer.com] He criticizes the ACS, but his nonprofit isn't even listed on Charity Navigator.

      in 1988 the ACS held a fund balance of over $400 million...Of that money, the ACS spent only $90 million— 26 percent of its budget— on medical research and programs

      That was 22 years ago! Based on Charity Navigator, they spent 6.9% on administrative expenses, and 72.8% on programs. The names he mentions in his article aren't current.

      It was probably a good criticism in it's time, and it appears that the ACS has reformed -- perhaps as a result of the article.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:30PM (#32200412)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512141909.htm

    Generic Drug May Be Potential Treatment for Deadly Brain Cancer

    ScienceDaily (May 13, 2010) — Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have reported evidence that the orphan generic drug dichloroacetate (DCA) may hold promise as potential therapy for perhaps the deadliest of all human cancers: a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

    The report is published at the journal Science Translational Medicine, a journal of the American Association of the Advancement of Science.

    In 2007 the U of A team led by Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, published evidence that DCA reverses cancer growth in non-human models and test tubes. The team showed then that DCA achieves these antitumor effects by altering the metabolism of cancer. By altering the way cancer handles its nutrient fuels, specifically the sugars, DCA was able to take away cancer's most important strength, the resistance to death. Since then, several independent groups across the world have confirmed the Alberta team's findings. In December 2009, the editors of "Science" predicted that cancer metabolism is one of only 5 areas across all scientific disciplines, to "watch for major breakthroughs" in 2010.

    The U of A team set out to show that the way that DCA works in actual patients is the same with the way it works in the lab. In addition, researchers wanted to show whether DCA is safe and possibly effective in very sick patients with brain cancer.

    By extracting glioblastomas from 49 patients over a period of 2 years and studying them within minutes of removal in the operating room, the team showed that tumors respond to DCA by changing their metabolism. Then, the team treated 5 patients with advanced glioblastoma and secured tumor tissues before and after the DCA therapy. By comparing the two, the team showed that DCA works in these tumors exactly as was predicted by test tube experiments. This is very important because often the results in non-human models tested in the lab do not agree with the results in patients. In addition, the team showed that DCA has anti-cancer effects by altering the metabolism of glioblastoma cancer stem cells, the cells thought responsible for the recurrences of cancer.

    In the 5 patients tested, the drug took 3 months to reach blood levels high enough to alter the tumor's metabolism. At those levels, there were no significant adverse effects. However, at some of the higher doses tested, DCA caused nerve malfunction, i.e. numbing of toes and fingers. Importantly, in some patients there was also evidence for clinical benefit, with the tumors either regressing in size or not growing further during the 18 month study.

    No conclusions can be made on whether the drug is safe or effective in patients with this form of brain cancer, due to the limited number of patients tested by the study's leads Drs Michelakis and Petruk. Researchers emphasize that use of DCA by patients or physicians, supplied from for-profit sources or without close clinical observation by experienced medical teams in the setting of research trials, is not only inappropriate but may also be dangerous. The U of A results are encouraging and support the need for larger clinical trials with DCA. This work is also one of the first in humans to support the emerging idea that altering the metabolism of tumors is a new direction in the treatment of cancer, Michelakis and Petruk said.

    The research team hopes to secure additional funding to continue the ongoing trials with DCA at the University of Alberta. Further studies would include more patients with brain cancer, and test the combination of DCA and standard chemotherapies, eventually including patients from other academic health sciences centres.

    One of the intriguing features of this work was that it was funded largely by public donations, including philanthropic foundations and individuals. In addition, it received strong support by Alberta public institutions, both the University of Alberta and Alber

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:39PM (#32201304)

    In four of the five glioblastoma patients, there was no further brain cancer growth after initial treatment. Follow-up studies on cells taken from these patients showed that DCA killed cancer cells.

    My wife died of a GBM (glioblastoma multiforme) in Jan 2006, 7 weeks after diagnosis - sigh. We were together for 20 years; I had hoped for many more.

    By-the-way, the cutting-edge drug for this is Temodar [wikipedia.org] at a list price of $11,000 / month (for several months), but co-pay w/insurance: BCBS: 10%, Optima: $40 - go figure.

  • is fire a warning shot across the bow of every pharmaceutical and huckster awareness group huddled close to the money-teat of sorrow and suffering. Open Source curative medicines would i think turn the tides.
  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:13PM (#32201728) Journal

    The current means of "curing" cancer is to poison the cells that have cancer, which sometimes mean poisoning all of your cells and hoping the ones with cancer are more susceptible to the poison. If they die before you do, you are cured. If not, well, then you "died of cancer".

    The actual cure for cancer would involve making the damaged DNA not be damaged any more. But it's not just the DNA, it's also the biological nanomachines that replicate and repair the DNA.

    Personally I don't think it's impossible. But the difference between the current medicine and that kind of medicine is like the difference between splashing a bucket of paint on a wall and rendering Avatar in real-time.

    We are as da Vinci in the middle ages, all imagination and no concept of technology, drawing pictures of flying machines made of sticks and sack-cloth with all the aerodynamic efficiency of a mid-air collision. The real things may be centuries off. Or maybe decades, if technology has taught us anything about accelerating technological change, and if greed hasn't so crippled the medical-research industry that it prefers maximizing long-term profit from poison to actually finding a cure.

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:39PM (#32201976)

    It really depends on where you send your money, as someone here points out, awareness is not research. Some groups do sponsor research, but it's hard to really do trials without major, major funding.

    One thing you can assume that any money you spend on a research oriented charity is only half as effective as you would expect. Most research organizations (universities, national labs - medical research is popular at national labs now) charge ~50% overhead on all grants. That's 50% hopefully going toward facility maintenance, but possibly going to retain administrative "talent." That's after whatever non-profit you donate to takes its operating expenses out.

    Ok, so how much do human trials cost? If you raise $100k, that probably won't pay for one trial patient once it's been chopped into little pieces.

    This is also why you can get a PhD in microbiology, be an excellent cancer researcher and make less than $30k/year (NIH "minimum" is supposed to be ~$45k at this point by the original law, but they don't even have the resources to support that level themselves and fund the people they want to fund). Once you're allowed to spend money on in-lab expenses, you really try and stretch those dollars. Sometimes you take less money to work on the research you care about (and hope some company, university or non-profit makes it up to you later).

    I think it's amazing someone got up to human trials with this drug. It's a marvel of fund raising and organization. Really, very nice.

  • DCA worked for me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by abushga (864910) * on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:20PM (#32203140)

    In 2008 I learned I had failed treatment for prostate cancer (72GY radiation & 2.5 years triple hormonal blockade). The disease was metastatic in skeleton and soft tissue with a PSA doubling time of 24 days which is very dangerous. Severe bleeding and bone pain quickly developed. Chemotherapy does not extend survival time for prostate cancer patients, moreover it has serious side effects. There was no clinical trial of DCA for prostate cancer. I decided to self-administer Sodium Dichloroacetate (DCA).

    DCA is an orphan drug which for 30+ years has been safely used in the U.S.A. to treat infants born with congenial lactic acidosis; also to treat cerebral ischemia among other conditions, so it is well described in the literature and the side effects are understood. It is not completely benign but is far safer in my opinion than radiation, hormonal blockade or chemotherapy. I had already done my homework and knew to watch for hypoglycemia. I limited my dose to 15mg/kg and took benfotiamine to minimize peripheral neuropathy, R+Lipoic Acid for hepatic support, and arranged regular lab work to monitor liver function.

    30 days after initiating DCA the pain in my hips and lower spine ceased. One day unremitting pain, the next day none. 60 days after starting DCA the profuse bleeding from bladder and colon ceased completely. My PSA doubling time dropped from 24 days to 72 months and stabilized.

    I developed a little numbness in my toes, which was expected. That is reversible over time. As with many cancer drugs, the evil little cells eventually developed resistance to DCA and I resumed androgen blockade for a time before switching to another self-administered novel treatment. Because of DCA I enjoyed ten wonderful, pain-free months during which I traveled, worked outdoors, got a tan, recovered my strength and my spirits. I have no regrets, not one.

    This pattern of temporary remission seems to be a typical experience for early adopters of DCA, although there have been a few reports of complete cures (prostate cancer, sarcoma). About 1,700 patients around the world are currently utilizing DCA as a cancer treatment, off-label. The most organized DCA treatment program is offered by the Medicor Clinic in Canada: http://www.medicorcancer.com/dca-reports.html [medicorcancer.com]

    Reading about DCA on the web one encounters venomous hostility to self-administered novel treatments for cancer, and to the use of DCA in particular; sadly, one such source has been quoted today on /. A more appropriate reference might be this op-ed in the New York Times, "Patents Over Patients" http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/opinion/01moss.html [nytimes.com]

    Whether it is more ethical to allow patients (and their doctors) to utilize an orphan drug off-label, or to tell them they can't utilize a molecule that may extend or even save their lives is a question for another discussion.

  • by frank249 (100528) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:18PM (#32210450)

    The Canadian Cancer Society [cancer.ca] posted this in August 2008:

    "In early 2007, University of Alberta researchers published results of a study about DCA (dichloroacetate) stating that the agent showed promise in shrinking tumours in laboratory rats and human cell lines (human cells grown in a petri dish).

    While the results were hopeful, the research was in its earliest stages and had been done on animals only.

    The Society has concerns about Canadians with cancer seeking DCA before any clinical trials had been done on humans to test its effectiveness on cancer patients. DCA has been shown to have potentially dangerous side effects when used for non cancer-related conditions.

    The Canadian Cancer Society welcomed the news in September 2007 of Health Canada's approval for the first human clinical trial about DCA. This is an important first step in testing this agent for use in cancer patients. We look forward to the results of the trial, which is being led by researchers at the University of Alberta .

    Until these clinical trials are finished, we can't advise cancer patients in the general population to use the agent.

    Key issues that need to be determined through a clinical trial include:

    Is it effective in shrinking tumours?
    Can DCA be used safely in cancer patients at doses needed for effectiveness.
    Are there critical doses or methods of administration to achieve anti-cancer effects.
    The Canadian Cancer Society is currently funding hundreds of other encouraging cancer-fighting research projects."

    According to the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

    In a 2005 audit by KPMG, the Canadian Cancer Society reported a revenue of $150,718,000 CAD. A breakdown of disbursements shows 28% of the Society's revenues going to fund research, 17% to provide support for people living with cancer, 7% to pay for information campaigns, 6% to fund prevention, and 2% to provide advocacy. Fundraising consumes 27% of the Society's revenue, and 6% is given over to management costs.

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