Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cancer Cure?

Cancer cell[s]                                                          []

Click here for related article [A.E. Cha for the Washington Post]

Are we on the way to an actual cancer cure?
Or, will the highly profitable pharmaceutical industry kill it -- again.

Following six decades of research by the most revered centers in the US [and the world],
"The Cure" remains curiously elusive, with no positive results other than massive profits for the pharmaceutical companies, cancer centers, oncologists, and of course, cancer societies and "charities". 

In this bit of news, we learn of a 15 year old lad, Jack Andraka, who comes from a modest background but has an extraordinary interest in science.   Using state-of-the-art research techniques [Wikipedia and Google], he was able to develop a diagnostic test for Pancreatic Cancer which is "...168 times faster, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times more economical than the medical standard."  [Click here for full Wikipedia article]

He won the Gordon E Moore science prize worth $75,000.

Imagine that!
And all without a federal grant or employment with a cancer research center.  But, he did try to enlist the cooperation of 200 fully employed and well compensated researchers -- all of whom blew him off or sent hate mail in return to his inquiries.
[It would make for an interesting story just to publish those responses]

The standard for testing blood for cancer today is about the same as it was 60 years ago, and about as accurate -- essentially of minimum reliability even for those with advanced stage cancer.  The tests take weeks to process, and need we add -- they are expensive!  The standard lab test ELISA [Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay] costs up to $800.  Quite a profitable enterprise, and not prone to upgrades or cost reduction due to economies of scale.

Following the death from pancreatic cancer of a close family friend, young Jack began his research.  Seems pancreatic cancer has few early stage symptoms, and when diagnosed, it's already in the late stage -- and fatal. 

Carbon Nanotube    [Wikipedia]

Jack sought an inexpensive, early stage diagnosis process and developed a test using a strip of filter paper which, when dipped into a solution of carbon nanotubes mixed with mesothelin antibodies, will reveal a biomarker for pancreatic cancer in a single drop of blood. 

Biomarker       []

If the blood sample contains the cancer biomarker, the electric charge of the paper sensor strip is changed and can be a measured with a standard ohmmeter [sold at Sears for $15.95]; results show up in five minutes -- vs the weeks for ELISA tests.

The price of the sensor strip [reusable up to 10 times] is $3.00; and, that same strip can monitor the patient's resistance to antibiotics and the progress of cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy or radiation.  The test also reveals the presence of early stage ovarian and lung cancer.

It's a highly efficient, inexpensive and effective process, but would leave virtually no profit margin for the pharmaceutical and diagnostic industries.

A number of companies, to include Quest Diagnostics [revenue: $7.16 Billion] have reportedly made overtures to Jack to purchase his patents.  If the established pattern is followed, a diagnostics company will buy him out and bury the technology so they can continue using old technology and charge high prices for their antiquated services.

Oddly enough, we periodically hear about new treatments which attack and cure cancer -- but, following a brief flurry of press coverage, not only does such coverage stop, past references seem to be purged from the internet and Media records.  Thus, potentially effective cures no longer threaten the highly profitable cancer industry.

Patients seem to be proliferating though, since there are now so many elements which seem to trigger cancer in humans.  Currently, there are more than 200 types of cancer ranging from melanomas [skin cancer] to pancreatic cancer - with tons of options in between. 

That's it dear; breathe deeply and enjoy!

And let's not forget the Medical Community which for decades promoted cigarette smoking, declining to inform their current and future patients that cigarettes caused cancer -- and heart disease.

[Even today, doctors don't mention that cigarettes create the plaque that blocks your arteries, instead blaming it on cholesterol -- from eggs!]

The pharmaceutical industry revenues approach 
$1 Trillion; Novartis, which specializes in chemotherapy drugs, has revenues of $53 Billion.

Why find/disclose a cure for cancer when it's much more profitable to simply treat it 
-- or promote it.