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Cancer Cure Patented
January 4, 2007 11:33 PM   Subscribe

Cancer Cure Patented A group of researchers claim that they are patenting a possible cure for cancer involving nothing more than sugar and short-chain fatty acid combination.
posted by TravisJeffery (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Key word in the article is Possible though.
posted by TravisJeffery at 11:34 PM on January 4, 2007


So let me get this straight. They want to patent an untested cure for cancer that involves little more than simple ingredients, the very news of which will nonetheless likely lead to false hope for millions upon millions of people who either have cancer or care deeply for someone who has it.

Fair enough. I hope these 'researchers' don't mind me patenting a cure for the affliction of being a snake-oil salesperson. It involves a swift hard kick to the beanbag.

I'm gonna be rich!
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:40 PM on January 4, 2007


Interesting.

What kind of proof of concept does one need for a patent?
posted by zennie at 11:41 PM on January 4, 2007


This seems like a pretty minor step, as far as cancer research goes.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 PM on January 4, 2007


Effigy2000: There are tons of patented cancer treatments, this is just one more. Are you complaining about the reporting on some random scoop site?
posted by delmoi at 11:49 PM on January 4, 2007


This sort of thing is actually pretty standard from my (admittedly limited) knowledge. Unless there's something out of the ordinary here, it's not all that newsworthy.

However, I am tempted to make a comment indicating that this is the one! in the off chance that it is the one, and I can point back to this at some future date and establish some badass medie cred (it's like indie cred but more doctor-y).
posted by The God Complex at 11:57 PM on January 4, 2007


You don't need any proof to patent something, just an idea of how to use it.

This is simply irresponsible journalism. The headline should read Experimental New Cancer Treatment Patented. Sheesh.
posted by mek at 11:59 PM on January 4, 2007


They want to patent an untested cure for cancer that involves little more than simple ingredients, the very news of which will nonetheless likely lead to false hope for millions upon millions of people who either have cancer or care deeply for someone who has it.

For those who read the article, using carrier molecules is a common strategy in targeted therapies. We already use specialized antibodies for this — the antibodies are hooked up to a toxin that would otherwise kill any cell. The antibody binds to a cancer cell-specific epitope, so that the toxin primarily attacks cancer cells. This is the so-called "magic bullet" approach, the holy grail of cancer therapy research.

This research sounds like bullshit, because most people equate sugar with the stuff you put in your coffee. The reality is that there are many sugars, some of which are metabolized and used differently by cancer cells than by healthy cells.

If a cancer cell is 'hungrier' for a certain type of sugar, this naturally opens up more choices for a carrier molecule, but the difference here is that the carrier molecule may also help take an active role in killing cancer cells in a targeted way.

Still, petri dishes of cells are not human tissue and the compound is untested in humans. Those are fair complaints — with this or any potential drug therapy. I'd disagree with complaints that the article is somehow announcing a miracle cure, but my interpretation is my own.

Interesting link, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


involving nothing more than sugar and short-chain fatty acid combination.

Well, of course, there's the catch. Not sure the general public will go for ingesting that kind of stuff.
posted by hal9k at 12:03 AM on January 5, 2007


Sugar+fatty acid chain combinations describe millions of possible combinations BTW.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:21 AM on January 5, 2007


Not sure the general public will go for ingesting that kind of stuff.

It's full of CHEMICALS!!!!!
posted by rxrfrx at 3:22 AM on January 5, 2007


"Up to 40% of cancer patients die from complications of malnutrition, not from the disease itself..."
posted by ewkpates at 3:23 AM on January 5, 2007


The study

The related patents (which lay claim on the construction of the relevant molecules but don't claim they will cure a person of cancer)
posted by rxrfrx at 3:26 AM on January 5, 2007


Don't know exactly why that approach would be any better than a thousand others, especially with such a general toxin as butyrate.

Cancer is so whoppingly varied and complex that most of the best ideas have attacked the separate steps in the long, overarching process, rather than just simply 'killing cancer cells' which has been tried for decades.

Detection cuts proliferation and metastasis short. Genetic screening improves detection. Anti-angiogenic methods reduce metastases.

Trying to roll back cancer after it forms is still really hard. The "holy grail" of keying your own immune system to recognize and kill your own cancer is a therapy still slowly, slowly developing.

And really nasty cancers work by Darwinian properties. Set free from normal genetic constraints, cells can quickly mutate and multiply, can adapt (some tumors develop 'magical' abilities to eject virtually any chemotherapeutic agent), invade, move into the bloodstream and re-locate..... Virtually any awful thing you might imagine a tumor to do, they end up doing. I think they'd 'figure' a way to dodge butyrate.

Back in '92, I was the guy setting up a lab for a new professor in Surgical Oncology. We took over a lab that had tried and failed with their method: having found a terminal patient had gotten a certain bacterial infection and then miraculously recovered, they worked with that bacterial strain for years with no real result. There're a million stories like that.
posted by toma at 3:45 AM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


These researchers have filed a patent application. Nothing has been, in fact, patented yet. Wilhelm Reich could have filed a patent application for his orgone accumulator, if he wanted (and did, if I recall); that doesn't mean he got a patent.

I'm not saying that this development is akin--just that there's been no screening process of any kind yet.
posted by chinston at 4:11 AM on January 5, 2007


Interesting.

What kind of proof of concept does one need for a patent?
posted by zennie at 2:41 AM EST on January 5


The thing you are patented has to work the way you say it works. That does not mean it has to cure cancer, because the patents (I haven't read them) probably are more limited "this combination of sugars and these fatty acids will interrupt process X in cells of type Y". It may in fact do that, but whether that actually results in a cancer cure remains to be seem (and I'm highly doubtful).
posted by Pastabagel at 7:23 AM on January 5, 2007


the very news of which will nonetheless likely lead to false hope

I still think false hope is better than no hope at all when it comes to cancer.
posted by NationalKato at 7:31 AM on January 5, 2007


"Cancer Cure Patented"

Wrong. Someone merely filed a patent application. It is not a patent yet. But the general public will probably never learn the difference.

Effigy2000: "They want to patent an untested cure for cancer that involves little more than simple ingredients..."

No they don't. Why don't you read the article? It clearly says "The researchers focused on a sugar called N-acetyl-D-mannosamine, or ManNAc, for short, and created a hybrid molecule by linking ManNAc with butyrate." Is a hybrid molecule linking ManNAc with butyrate a simple ingredient? I don't think so.

The God Complex: This sort of thing is actually pretty standard from my (admittedly limited) knowledge.

It is? I have never heard of any hybrid molecule linking ManNAc with butyrate, but then again I am not a chemist. And if all this is so trivial, why hasn't anyone thought of it before? In any case, if the idea really was known or obvious, then they will probably be denied their patent anyway. So there's really nothing to be upset about here.
posted by sour cream at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2007


Literally hundreds of pharmaceutical patents are granted every week. It's standard procedure to apply for the patent before beginning any animal testing (let alone human), lest someone else patent it first. A tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of those will eventually become approved drugs.

Any false hope here is being generated by the irresponsible reporter who wrote this story and doesn't understand this, not the researchers.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:18 AM on January 5, 2007


'nothing more than sugar and short-chain fatty acid combination'

omg pancake batter!
posted by jcterminal at 8:21 AM on January 5, 2007


that ain't nuthin. i hold a dozen patents for masturbation techniques in the palm of my hand.
posted by bruce at 10:05 AM on January 5, 2007


I still think false hope is better than no hope at all when it comes to cancer.

I disagree. It makes the inevitable that much harder to deal with when you refuse to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Yes, I speak from experience.
posted by flaterik at 11:57 AM on January 5, 2007


Thanks for the answers, Pastabagel and mek.

I'm just trying to feel out the purpose and limits of a patent like this.

Basically, the patent would cover using this specific molecule to trigger apoptosis, under any conditions. It doesn't cover using the molecule for other purposes (?). And they don't have to know (or reveal) how it works, which would be the 'scientific' part. Anyone else would be free to study this or use the sugar-FA complex idea with different molecules.
posted by zennie at 2:18 PM on January 5, 2007


All of a sudden, at the beginning of the year, there are cures announced publicly for cancer, influenza, and diabetes.

Wonder what's really going on and whether we will actually see results from any of these announcements?
posted by First Post at 2:31 PM on January 5, 2007


Hey, great, a patent application.

After they get the patent - if they get it - they can apply to the FDA for an IND, after which they can apply for an NDA to conduct a phase I clinical trial.

If they try to give someone this compound as a cancer cure before they do so, they will be committing Federal felonies and will go to jail.

You know why we have this process? Because charlatans, quacks, and hucksters have been preying on sick people by selling them inefficacious treatments since the beginning of recorded history.

Show me the data.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:41 PM on January 5, 2007


I still think false hope is better than no hope at all when it comes to cancer.

Yeah, maybe.

My friend just died of cancer last week. During the heart-rendingly short process every time I read a news post with 'Cure for cancer!' I wanted to punch someone hard enough that I could feel their nose break.

If you gathered up all the times someone has claimed that in the last few years, you'd have a nice pile to light a bonfire, and nothing else.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:09 AM on January 6, 2007


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