Thursday, February 16, 2012

Long-awaited Cancer Drug Treatment Looks Promising

This is a guest post by Joseph Baker

Long-awaited Cancer Drug Treatment Looks Promising

Bayer HealthCare has created a promising new drug to aid patients of colorectal cancer and will seek FDA approval this year. The drug is called regorafenib and will act as a medication for people who have run through all existing treatments of advanced colorectal cancer, including chemotherapy and other medications. Colorectal cancer has gone without a treatment drug for over five years; this innovation will provide a better outlook for patients and is expected to extend lives.

From The LA Times:

Regorafenib is a type of medication called an angiogenesis inhibitor. It shuts down the process by which tumors induce the growth of new blood vessels in order to survive. The drug appears to block a number of different molecular pathways that affect angiogenesis.

"For colon cancer patients, this is an important step," said Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, an investigator in the regorafenib trial. "This shows if you continue to inhibit angiogenesis in different ways, patients have a significant overall survival benefit."

While this is good news, many are wondering why there was a five-year gap in treatment drugs for colorectal cancer; what took scientists so long?

First of all, it takes actual work to make research happen. Throwing money at a problem (i.e. donating to charity) does not create a solution. It takes education and personal interest.

Take the American Cancer Society, for example. While it may be a well-known and respected charity capable of raising hundreds of millions of dollars, the organization has become a hulking goliath in terms of operating expenses. In a report, the American Cancer Society is shown to contribute only 26% of its annual contributions to cancer research with the rest going to operating expenses, salaries, holdings and bonuses.

Rather than assisting the medical community in advancing medicine, money is simply reallocated and not used effectively - if it is used at all.

The second reason pioneering medicine takes years is the nature of collaboration.

Scientists and practitioners have to work together to gather data, report findings and interpret outcomes. This is a checks-and-balances system of sorts to ensure that all aspects of treatment are considered. Scientists rely on practitioners to teach them what they are seeing in patients so that they may better understand the nature of a disease or condition -before, during and after treatment.

While this can greatly extend the time to launch a new treatment, such care is necessary to avoid disastrous mistakes from hidden side effects that can have devastating consequences, ranging from heart attack or stroke to birth defects and death.

This is why it takes more than five years to see any major changes in medicine.

So what should we do? Educate.

Not "educate" by teaching the general public about the importance of health screenings and early detection, but educate literally by offering more financial assistance to students seeking anything from a chemistry degree to an advanced medical degree. Eliminating barriers to entry for young adults will encourage more young adults to participate in the research and practice of medicine. These people, not charitable organizations, are the pioneers who will make discoveries and advance medical technology.

There may be little to be done to shorten the time that collaboration adds to the release of a new product or therapy, but facilitating the process can be accomplished by establishing a deep understanding of the partnership between scientists and practitioners at the academic level.

About the author:

Joseph Baker has worked in the business world for over 15 years, specifically in management. He has led development and management teams, and implemented budget reductions both professionally and as an independent contractor. In addition, he has led strategic planning in healthcare and systems of implementation.

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