Friday, May 13, 2011

You just know this will spur hatred of "Big Pharma"

Here's an interesting article I came across --

It's a very nice sentiment...  Somehow, the miracle cure for cancer has been found and now, no one need suffer chemo or radiation ever again!

Well, the problem is that this isn't really a very accurate picture.  First of all, the original studies on DCA started back in 2007, and it was very much in the lab-rat phase back then.  The study that the article is referencing is basically referring to one of the first major tests to be done on human tissue (which also wasn't that recent).  Tested on brain, lung, and breast tissue, and in every case showing a clean record of killing the cancer and leaving the healthy cells untouched.  How awesome is that?

Okay, well, there's one little oversight here.  The tests are being done on tissue cultures.  Yes, they're live cultures, but live cultures are not the same thing as patients.  I also find it interesting that the article only mentions tests that were successful, but not tests which weren't.  Did they simply not do tests on liver tissue, or bone marrow, or stomach cancer?  Either way, you can't escape the fact that patients have things like active immune systems, lymph networks, a nervous system, and a host of competing pathogens in their bodies, and all that can easily throw a spanner in the works.  Testing on live lab animals involved oral delivery by adding DCA to their drinking water.  This is probably fine for animals that small, but for humans, you might need more targeted delivery than that...  especially if we're talking about cancer that is more aggressive and/or has metastasized.  That technology exists, though, since we're already using it to localize the delivery of chemotherapy.  It could just as easily be used for DCA delivery.  So the research is definitely promising, but it's still a ways out.

The mistake a lot of people are going to make is derived from the fact that DCA is a drug that has been around for a long time, any existing patents on it have long expired, and it's therefore very difficult to make any money off of it.  They assume from that, that the pharmaceutical industry won't be interested in it because there's no money in it.  Especially not given the fact that most cancers are slow-acting through which people survive for several years, during which they'll be heavily medicated, and all that adds up to dollars.  Seriously, though, there's another point you're missing.  Because there are no patents on it, there is no need for researchers to rush the process of science.  Clinical trials on live patients are still yet to be done, and that's a necessary component before any drug goes to market.  We often see drugs rushed through testing on account of the need to protect their patent value and get the drug out on the market before the patents expire and somebody can sell a generic version of it, and that can have a big cost.  Without that pressure, the process of testing can be that much more thorough and the "medical establishment" people so fear can ensure that it is indeed safe and effective, and also how to maximize its efficacy.  I think that's worth not making a furor over it here and now.  The furor will exist within the confines of the medical community, but that will simply be the spark to spur on further research.

What I fear most, though, is that quacks out there are likely to jump on this, and take advantage of desperate people.  For those who are suffering through some form of cancer, especially terminally ill patients, the notion of some perfect miracle cure is something that will have some inexorable allure, and there hundreds, if not thousands of scam artists waiting to prey on those weak and suffering masses with unapproved and uncertain treatments.  This is evil, plain and simple, and the oversimplified articles with a headline that suggests cancer has been cured can open up avenues for repugnant quacks to do their quacking.  Where's Michael Specter when you need him?