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Medicine Biotech News Science Technology

Repurposing Drugs To Tackle Cancer (theguardian.com) 53

sackvillian writes: Many Slashdotters are aware of the infamous thalidomide birth defect crisis. What might come as a surprise is the incredible success that thalidomide and some analogs have recently found as treatments for cancer, ulcers, lupus, and more. In fact, thanks in part to their success, there's a growing research movement that's attempting to treat cancer with other existing drugs that are commonly used for totally unrelated conditions. Drugs as common as aspirin, which is in the early stages of a clinical trial that will involve over 10,000 cancer patients, are being used. As described in the article written by The Guardian, at least one major international collaboration has taken this approach: The Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project. However, as most of the drugs are long since off-patent, researchers are having to be creative in obtaining funding for their work. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a public database for clinical data on cancer that aims to help researchers and doctors better tailor new treatments to individuals.
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Repurposing Drugs To Tackle Cancer

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  • At least 15 years ago someone started a giant, long-term hard outcomes study to track food and drugs for outcomes of cancer and stroke and heart disease. What ever happened to that? The idea being nobody knew if there weren't a few good or bad items in the mass of stuff people take.

  • Maintenance chemo forever We have used at least one drug on the ReDo list for a stage IV cancer diagnosis, along with specific anticancer megavitamins and supplements. In terms of success, we've done far, far better than peers spending several million dollars. Great quality of life, almost no side effects or down time for treatments, much longer life, and saved millions of dollars that we didn't have. Hopefully many of the ReDo drugs will be successful and studied soon.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @06:11AM (#52313843) Journal

    "We'd study these things, but nobody is going to get filthy rich off of it so there's no real incentive to spend the money."

    Wait - how much money is spent by the government and NFP cancer foundations on research? And we can't get a share of that to study promising medicines?
    Damn, we really are fucked as a society.

    • I almost wonder if we'd have readily-available cures for polio, measles, etc. if they hadn't already been available in the early 20th century.

      What happened to creating helpful drugs for the purpose of helping people, rather than making money?

      • It takes tons of money to research and develop a drug. If a company can't recoup that investment by selling the drug, there's no incentive to develop it in the first place.

        Only the government (you know, the only entity that can print money out of thin air) can invest money with no hope of a return on that investment. Everybody else lives in the real world.
        • This is why most vaccine money comes from the government.
          • The issue is more complicated than that. Defects in our legal system make liability for harm claimed to be caused by vaccines intolerable. By tying the government into vaccine production, the gov't can cover costs or outright forbid vaccine lawsuits.
            • The manufacturers are already shielded from liability via an injury program the govt runs: http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecom... [hrsa.gov] But mostly it is super expensive and the return on investment is low. Customers only need dosed once a decade, generally. The vast majority of vaccine research is paid for via government grant to a private company that has a fledgling product they want to develop or a government agency directly soliciting research on an area it is worried about.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          It does not take tons of money to research and develop a drug. It takes a lot of money to take a drug through animal & human trials. The drug (as in, the molecule) is already determined long before any of that money is spent. The cost (risk) element arises purely because most drugs (like 95%) fail to get all the way through human trials. This cost is amortized across the drugs that do work. That has nothing to do with capitalism per se, that's a simple numbers game - it works the same under sociali

      • We don't have a cure for polio; we have vaccines that prevent it. New vaccines are still being developed, and some are even anti-cancer.

        There are lots of people working to create helpful drugs; what the article is about is testing existing drugs to see if they might do other things, and clinical trials are expensive. Talk to Congress and get them to fund the NIH more if you want them to do that.
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      ReDO is mostly a European organization. It's also not clear from the linked article that they have a lot of expertise in the field.
    • Because, drug companies have money and they lobby congress to squelch anything that threatens their profit stream. The supreme court has ruled money is speech. It has also ruled corporations are not only people, but they are endowed with deeply held religious beliefs that must be accommodated by the society. Flesh and blood employees and their access to health care is not important. It is the right of the nameless faceless soulless corporation to claim "deeply held religious belief" to shirk its responsibil
      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        America has the healthcare system it deserves, it seems. If "politics as team sport" is more important than "functioning government", this is the sort of crap that will plague the US for generations. If a demonstrably good idea is despised because of which political team suggests it, the system is a failure, and democratic in name only.

      • That is become we are dumb as fenceposts. We watch reality TV and deeply care who the bachelorette has "relations" with. We go to church on Sunday and never doubt that there really was an actual serpent in an actual garden of eden around 6000 years ago right before a really big flood that rose to cover the top of mount everest in only 40 days and nights of rain (water rising at a rate of one inch or so a minute, globally). We truly believe that this flood wiped out all of the dinosaurs, and that all of t

      • Spending money on election advertisements is speech. I fail to see how anyone could disagree with that.

        It has also ruled corporations are not only people

        False. Citizens United merely said that because people individually have freedom of speech, people working together in a group (in this case, a corporation - interesting fact, the ACLU and many unions are nonprofit corporations as well) should also have it. Corporations do not, however, enjoy protections under the Fifth Amendment (self-incrimination in particular).

    • "We'd study these things, but nobody is going to get filthy rich off of it so there's no real incentive to spend the money."

      Add R&D for new antibiotics to that list.

      While there are a few defenders of the industry on this site, the truth is they aren't in the curing business any more; they're in the maintenance (read addiction) business.

      They are, in the street parlance, Drug Dealers.

    • Clinical trials are fucking expensive, man. Somewhat less expensive if the drug is already approved for other uses, but you're still talking probably upwards of $100M per drug to show that it works. The NIH budget isn't big, especially if you want them to keep funding basic and translational (not clinical) research at the same time.
      • Clinical trials are fucking expensive, man. Somewhat less expensive if the drug is already approved for other uses, but you're still talking probably upwards of $100M per drug to show that it works. The NIH budget isn't big, especially if you want them to keep funding basic and translational (not clinical) research at the same time.

        At one point during the early discussions of the TPP trade deal, a thought occured to me: Why don't we have an international agreement for reciprocity in medical treatments? Clinical trials are, as you say, "fucking expensive, man," but they're many times more expensive when you have to go through variations of the same trials over and over for different markets.

        I was recently talking with my father-in-law. He told me about how his mom and sister had both been to Germany for a particular neck surgery tha

        • We could, but the FDA and EMA both don't want to cede control; they put slightly different emphasis on safety/efficacy, there's different regulations on how clinical trials must be run, individual data protection, etc. We probably should standardize it to some extent, but nobody wants to change that much.

          There are times, however, where the FDA will look at the trial that approved something in the EU and just say "good enough", but it's on a case by case basis.

          The medical regulatory agency in Japan makes
  • Speaking of treatments that are awesome, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy is fantastic.
    http://www.cancer.org/cancer/b... [cancer.org]

    It's surprising that there are VERY few places where this treatment is performed. The reason often has to do with the fact that it's labor-intensive and there is no surgery involved.

  • a large percentage of our society can find the money to help pay for the ridiculous incomes enjoyed by major sports figures and their leagues, and movie / music stars and the MAFIAA, but cancer "researchers are having to be creative in obtaining funding for their work" because patent expiration renders that research insufficiently profitable for Big Pharma? It seems to me that, as a society, our values are seriously skewed in favour of paying for bread and circuses, and the latest bit of techno-shiny, inste

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      You mixed two things that shouldn't be mixed:

      1) independent cancer researchers are having trouble getting funding
      2) pharmaceutical companies are private businesses

      The blame for #1 does not fall on pharmaceutical companies

  • ...which is why there is no incentive to find a cure.

    Dozens of companies make money because of cancer. Even "cancer research" companies make money because of cancer.

    Finding a cure would be like killing their own cash cow. Who in their right mind would do that?

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