Cancer vivisection condemned Date: 3/31/04 3:45:24 PM Eastern Standard Time From: email@example.com (- V I N -) Reply-to:
Message 1 of 1
, Mar 31 1:49 PM
Cancer vivisection condemned Date: 3/31/04 3:45:24 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: vinpost1@... (- V I N -)
Sunday Times Report: Are we wasting cash on cancer?
March 28, 2004
Special Report: Are we wasting cash on cancer?
Paul Durman examines American claims that efforts to find a cure are
CANCER research is one of those unquestioned public goods. More than one in
three of us will contract the disease at some point and nearly everybody?
life will be touched by it. Little wonder, then, that cancer charities are
so handsomely supported by the general public.
Every year in Britain, an estimated m to m is spent on cancer
research by the government, charitable organisations and the pharmaceutical
industry. In America, the numbers are much larger: an estimated $14 billion
(2 billion) a year.
But what if much of this money is wasted? What if much of the research is
mis-directed? What if much of the work serves no real purpose? This,
broadly, is the argument advanced in a hard-hitting analysis in last week?
edition of Fortune, the American business magazine. Drawing on three months
of interviews with experts from leading medical schools, Cliff Leaf, a
cancer survivor himself, explained ?hy we?e losing the war on cancer
The article claims that despite the $200 billion spent on cancer research
since President Richard Nixon declared war on the disease in 1971, mortality
rates are unchanged en when the statistics are adjusted to take account
of an ageing American population.
Leaf argues that research and funding is mis-directed. Scientists win
funding for projects aimed at incremental knowledge-gathering, not bolder,
more imaginative solutions.
Also, he said, pharmaceutical research relies heavily on experiments on
mice. Mouse DNA is very similar to human DNA. But this very simple truth
ignores another: the huge physiological differences between men and mice.
Many cancer treatments that work in mice don? work in humans and st as
importantly me of those that don? work in mice could work in man.
The need to produce measurable evidence of efficacy for regulators, most
importantly the US Food and Drug Administration, has some perverse results.
One popular proxy of success is tumour shrinkage t tumour shrinkage per
se does not translate into better survival rates.
Accordingly, many cancer drugs hyped by the pharmaceutical industry do
little if anything to prolong lives. What? more, regulatory pressures force
researchers and companies to test their drugs on patients with advanced
cancer en the disease is much more difficult to treat and when the
chances of success are modest. Leaf argues that this means potentially
useful treatments are discarded as worthless.
Combination therapy, using ?ocktails different drugs, might offer
better chances of success, as in the treatment of HIV and Aids. But Fortune
said regulatory and commercial pressures discourage companies from pursuing
In short, it claimed that the cancer community is failing patients who look
to it for help. ?ompanies focus not on breakthrough treatments but on
incremental improvements to existing classes of drugs. The approach does not
encourage risk-taking or entrepreneurial approaches to drug discovery.
?linical trials are focused on the wrong goal doing ?roperience
rather than saving lives. . . The trialsry reason for being is to test a
hypothesis: is treatment X better than treatment Y? And sometimes o
often sadly e information generated by this tortuously long process
doesn? much matter.
British experts accept at least part of the Fortune argument. Progress
against cancer has generally been slow, though there have been some
successes in combating breast cancer and certain kinds of leukaemia.
Sir Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at Oxford
University, said: ?here has been progress but not enormous progress.
Improved understanding has not yet translated into national mortality rates.
It? neither an utter catastrophe nor a shining triumph.
David Oxlade, chief executive of Xenova, a firm developing cancer drugs,
said: ?here has been progress, there? no doubt about it. What we would
like to see is more cures. The majority of patients are helped to live
longer rather than cured.
The reason is that cancer is complex is not one disease, but several
?t? not just that,id Peter Fellner, chairman of three companies
working in oncology lltech, Vernalis and Astex. ?here are several
hundred targets for drug intervention. Many of them are relevant but we
don? know the exact level of relevance.
?here are so many variables and complexities. It makes it difficult to
construct trials that are simple enough to give you clear results.
There is widespread agreement that the system of trials sting drugs
first on mice and other animals, then on very sick patients with advanced
cancer eds to be rethought.
?hose approaches were appropriate 20 or 30 years ago,id Fellner.
?egulators need to think creatively. Many of these agents might be more
effective if we looked at patients with early-stage disease or cancer
survivors with minimal residual disease.
Richard Sullivan, head of clinical programmes at Cancer Research UK, the
funding charity, said: ?ore and more we talk about man as the model.
Animals are a very dirty guide. If we get a drug that has a specific target,
as long as it does not kill the patient, then we have got to try it out on
The difficulty is that health regulators would be reluctant to allow the use
of experimental drugs on patients who were yet to fall seriously ill. ?t
would be unacceptable for many doctors and the public,id Sullivan.
Another problem is presented by commercial pressures. With patients who have
early-stage cancer, it could take years to produce evidence of improved
survival, making it harder for drug companies to make money.
George Blackledge, clinical vice-president of oncology at Astra Zeneca,
said: ?rials in early disease will take longer, and if we are going to do
that we want some payback. If you have a drug that proves it is useful on
the day its patent expires, that? a difficult situation.
Sullivan would welcome a challenge to research-funding policies. In areas
such as lung cancer, where progress has been slow, he believes bolder
approaches could help.
?t requires pump priming, said. ?t requires over- arching solutions,
by which I mean organisations taking a lead and saying, ?his is something
we?e going to focus on
?e need to have a culture of taking risks. There? no risk- taking within
industry. Where risk-taking can take place is in the public funds.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in Fortune? analysis is its premise that the
unchanging death rate reflects a failure in the medical attack on cancer.
The British experience is more encouraging, as Peto explained: ?he biggest
determinant of US cancer trends is what happens to smoking. Britain was
serious about smoking in the 1960s. Our death rates have come down quite
Similar trends can now be seen in America, which was slower to tackle
smoking. However, it will take years for this improvement to become apparent
in the population-wide numbers used by Leaf. Moreover, the impact of smoking
obscures benefits coming from improved treatment.
Researchers also claim that Fortune has misunderstood the nature of
cancer-drug development. Initial approval is only the green light that
allows clinicians to use the product in other settings and in combination
with other drugs.
Tamoxifen, the breast-cancer drug from Astra Zeneca, is a good example. It
was first approved in 1973 for the treatment of advanced breast cancer.
Blackledge said: ?ow in early disease, it? saving the lives of hundreds of
thousands of women. At the very least, it? delaying death, not by months,
but by years.
Despite the slow rate of progress, researchers and pharmaceutical companies
believe we are at last on the threshold of genuine advances.
Peto said research ?ill prevent a lot of unncessary deaths, if not from
cancer then from other diseases. Just leave the researchers alone ey?e
not doing that badly.
Fellner said: ?n the past 10 or so years, there has been a mammoth advance
in understanding why cancers actually occur. There will be major clinical
advances from this database. It may take another 10 or 15 years but they
will be there.
Protect R Wildlife (PA Rep.) http://www.ProtectRWildlife.org
HOME OF GREAT NEW PROGRAMS:
PAWS-BAY (Auction for Wildlife) PAWS-Bay Home TNR + TNR + K.A.W.S. 4 KIDS K.A.W.S
Put an end to Huntingdon Life Sciences once and for all
Help end the cat and dog meat trade http://groups.yahoo.com/group/StopNightmareDogIndustries
Tell of your passions of the causes you fight for! http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stateyourcause/
"The Earth And Her Threatened Animal Nations Deserve The Same Level Of Defense That We Support When Human Life Is Threatened. Otherwise We Are Just More Hypocrites Wanting Change Without The Risk And Sacrifice That Is Already Being Made By Others."
I Believe It Is Far Better To Live For Animal Liberation Than To Die For It.
Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.