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Cure for Cancer in 10 Years?
January 17, 2002 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Cure for Cancer in 10 Years? Anyone else see West Wing last night? Apparently, drugs called signal transduction inhibitors (STIs) - such as phenoxodiol, the drug referred to by Pres. Bartlet - are a reality, and early studies have shown their effectiveness in striking cancer's Achilles heel. Furthermore, in the Law and Order episode which followed, Gleevec was mentioned as the key to curing a type of leukemia, which is in fact a remarkably potent STI recently FDA-approved. Perhaps Aaron Sorkin isn't spinning a fantasy tale as I initially thought -- any oncologists in the house? [If Newsgurus doesn't let you in, try Google's cache.]
posted by padjet1 (27 comments total)

 
That kind of stuff is pretty well researched I find. But it's all in testing. Maybe they'll be ready for some basic trial in 10 years, but as for mass availability and run of the mill 'oh, I have cancer, I'll just take my pill today', I'm not as confident.
posted by rich at 12:43 PM on January 17, 2002


I'm not an oncologist, but I play one on TV but I do work in clinical cancer trials. Gleevec has been the gee-whiz drug of the last year, but it's way, way, way too early to begin making curative pronouncements about STIs. Every now and then a drug comes along and hits big with the public--remember when Taxol was going to do away with the big C?

I would love to be out of a job within 10 years, but it's difficult to be optimistic about that. That said, these are exciting times for new therapies. There's still a whole revolution coming with gene therapies alone.
posted by Skot at 12:54 PM on January 17, 2002


I also hear that Clegg from 'The Last of the Summer Wine' has worked out a cure for the common cold.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:07 PM on January 17, 2002


til then, continue to eat your greens and lots of fruit. The Cynic: we will have the drugs you need. But can you afford what we will charge?
posted by Postroad at 1:07 PM on January 17, 2002


Speaking of Gleevec, anybody see "Law and Order" last night?
posted by martk at 1:12 PM on January 17, 2002


D'oh!!
posted by martk at 1:15 PM on January 17, 2002


Begin thread hijack:

Speaking of Gleevec, anybody see "Law and Order" last night?

Yes. Lame. Whatever happened to the great Law and Order twists? That which used to be background--the "ripped from the headlines" stories--is now the entire story. There are no suprises, and the once-least-predictable-show on-TV is now obvious from minute 5 on.

And even for a flaming liberal like myself, it was disgusting that this guy was let off the hook so easily for bashing in another man's skull.
posted by thebigpoop at 1:22 PM on January 17, 2002


What I want to know is whether the time frame is lengthy because of FDA red tape (meaning that something like a presidential boost would vastly accelerate things, much like Kennedy and the space program in the 60s, also mentioned in the episode), or because these drugs truly are still quite experimental. Would a billion dollars make 10 years a reasonable target?

[as for L&O, I agree -- and I hate how they now reveal the investigative twists in the previews sandwiched in the West Wing commercial breaks. Though, last night was the first in a long while that I felt an bit of sympathy for the killer, which I thought was a bit of a twist in itself.]
posted by padjet1 at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2002


I've interviewed some of the country's leading cancer researchers on this topic, and they all say the same thing: Don't hold your breath. In coming years, the most we can look forward to is further refinement of our current, bludegeoning approach to the disease: radiation, chemotherapy, surgery. At best, the new therapeutic agents may become useful adjuncts to the old stand-bys. The only hope for a "magic bullet" lies in the possibility of a discovery that more types of cancers than are already known turn out to be caused by viruses.
posted by Faze at 1:33 PM on January 17, 2002


What I want to know is whether the time frame is lengthy because of FDA red tape (meaning that something like a presidential boost would vastly accelerate things,

i'd like them to test drugs well before approving them. it'd really suck for a drug to cure leukemia but still kill you because of liver failure.

of course, it won't matter anyway. why find a cure for something when you can create extremely profitable treatment drugs that have to be used for the rest of the patients life?
posted by tolkhan at 1:35 PM on January 17, 2002


Here's the strange thing about that "West Wing" episode: Nobody mentions that Richard Nixon did precisely what the fictional president suggests: He launched a "War on Cancer" commensurate with the space program. Tons of money was poured into this effort, and it is responsible for our cancer research infrastructure as it exists today. The old S.O.B. ought to get some credit for this. Not that it did any good. Cancer (which is actually many different diseases) is a messy, intractable inheritance of the flesh that may be with us always.

why find a cure for something when you can create extremely profitable treatment drugs that have to be used for the rest of the patients life?

Tolkhan, you'd be astonished if you knew how little that kind of paranoia is justified. I'm not kidding when I tell you that drug companies, doctors and hospitals really, honestly do want to cure these diseases. The kind of paranoid fantasy that sees them making the kind of profit calculation you describe simply doesn't happen. No one in the "establishment" would dream of sitting on a truly effective cure, and if such a cure were ever to be found, it would rip through the market like a hurricane.
posted by Faze at 1:45 PM on January 17, 2002


look, I just want to know if pharmaceuticals are now paying for product placement on TV shows. since they are already allowed to buy ads (and 1 and 8 people who see an ad ask their doc about the drug), I don't see why this would be illegal.

I think it's a bad idea, though.
posted by rebeccablood at 1:46 PM on January 17, 2002


scusi: 1 in 8.
posted by rebeccablood at 1:47 PM on January 17, 2002


Just FYI, Gleevec's FDA approval was blazingly fast. Novartis applied in February of 2001 and the FDA gave approval in May. I can't tell you what kind of a fast track that is. The usual lead time is something like a year or better.

(Timeline here.)
posted by Skot at 1:54 PM on January 17, 2002


Why is everyone out to cure disease? It makes diseases stronger, humans as a species weaker, and makes our survival drug reliant. Darwin would freak if he found out we were passing on such crap genes.

Sorry, I'm feeling very big picture today, ignore me.
posted by remlapm at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2002


Tolkhan, you'd be astonished if you knew how little that kind of paranoia is justified. I'm not kidding when I tell you that drug companies, doctors and hospitals really, honestly do want to cure these diseases. The kind of paranoid fantasy that sees them making the kind of profit calculation you describe simply doesn't happen. No one in the "establishment" would dream of sitting on a truly effective cure, and if such a cure were ever to be found, it would rip through the market like a hurricane.


This is true at the level of the researchers and people involved in trying to cure cancer. It probably isn't true at the level of people who decide whether to look into a cancer cure versus erection medicine...
posted by srboisvert at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2002


Well, remlapm, you could also look at it this way: by keeping as many germ lines going as possible, we're keeping our biodiversity up, thus increasing our chances of surviving future plagues that don't exist yet.
Or that could be sophistry. I just can't tell any more.
posted by lbergstr at 2:06 PM on January 17, 2002


I hope someone else here finds it pathetic and embarrassing that you get your science updates from a fictional television series.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:11 PM on January 17, 2002


lbergstr- I was being half serious. It just seems we waste so much money to prolong peoples lives by 10 years or so ( granted there are the child case which are tragic, I'm not discounting that ). Couldn't the money be better spent on nutrition, thus strengthening our bodies the natural way?

Anyway, didn't want to derail the thread, and I don't really have a strong opinion on this or know all the facts so I am more than likely talking out of my ass ( i do that often ).
posted by remlapm at 2:11 PM on January 17, 2002


I hope someone else here finds it pathetic and embarrassing that you get your science updates from a fictional television series.

What, that I hear about something via an intelligent TV show that I like (one of maybe three), which then lends me to do some research on the subject, capped off by initiating an informed discussion to find out even more? Maybe I missed something, but these drugs haven't exactly received Segway-esque media coverage.
posted by padjet1 at 2:31 PM on January 17, 2002


it's going to be interesting. even if the fda approves these drugs, the price (at first), to produce this is going to be insane. i work for a pharmaceutical company & estimates around here are that it's going to cost about $1 million dollars to treat one person.
posted by tinaguppie at 2:37 PM on January 17, 2002


ParisParamus: I hope someone else here finds it pathetic and embarrassing that you get your science updates from a fictional television series.

Wow. You just crossed the official line between "usually irritating" and "always an arrogant, self-aggrandizing prick". Perhaps not everyone has enough time to scour the Internet for the latest information on every subject imaginable.

Or perhaps, having posting 1470 comments on MeFi in less than eleven months, you just need to get a fucking life.
posted by Danelope at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2002


Interesting episode. Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971 ($1.5 billion per year, at the time).
posted by stevengarrity at 3:01 PM on January 17, 2002


It's too bad the term "STI" is being overloaded. On a casual glance-by, the descriptive text appears to imply that leukemia is a remarkably potent sexually-transmitted infection. This is confusing. Too many TLAs!

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2002


MetaTalk.
posted by sennoma at 7:51 PM on January 17, 2002


No, ParisParamus, but I find your attitude to be pathetic and embarrassing.
posted by websavvy at 8:18 AM on January 18, 2002


I would love to be out of a job within 10 years

Skot, honey, if current research leads to a cure, you'll still be working. We'll turn you loose on curing other diseases...but with more of us around, we'd could pay you handsomely this time.
posted by Dinzie at 11:11 PM on January 18, 2002


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