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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Thimerosal, Again | Main | Vaccines and Human Folly »

June 28, 2005

Cancer Delusions

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Posted by Derek

Time for another public-health issue that someone has done an excellent job covering. That would be Colby Cosh, taking on a fuzzy-minded editorial on cancer rates. This is a fine example of going to the data to see if someone really knows what they're talking about, and I could only wish that all journalists were as handy with a graph as Colby is. Quoth Cosh:

"The effort to play on the emotions--and there is no more emotional topic in Western life than cancer--is so poorly disguised; the contemptuous attitude toward reason is so transparent. I believe this has become more widely known, and pieces like Mr. Anderson's are now commonly regarded by newspaper readers as mere static. And no one thinks there is any harm in having it about, right up until the moment we completely lose the ability to communicate candidly with one another, or to persuade by any means but sheer amplitude."

His further thoughts on non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which actually does seem to be rising, are well worth checking out, too. All this is accented by a well-publicized recent survey of beliefs about cancer, whose full text is available here. The one that particularly gets me is "There is currently a cure for cancer but the medical industry won't tell the public about it because they make too much money treating cancer patients." Actually, you could probably have substituted just about any disease in that question and found the same distressingly high agreement.

The percentage of people agreeing with that place a lower bound on the number of survey respondents who know nothing about economics. (We'll leave knowledge of biology out of it for now.) How much money would people pay for a cure for cancer, compared to current therapies? More, possibly? Would there be any incentive to offer one, then, especially considering that new cancer patients come along all the time? And just when did we pharma companies all get together to share our secret cancer cure, anyway? Why wouldn't a company decide to break ranks and blow its competitors completely out of the market? And who was it that decided that they didn't want a Nobel Prize and the everlasting gratitude of millions of suffering people? Oy.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cancer


COMMENTS

1. daen on June 29, 2005 8:16 AM writes...

And just when did we pharma companies all get together to share our secret cancer cure, anyway?


Now come on, Derek. Talk about a red rag to a bull. Do you honestly think WBurke's powers of self restraint are so great as to turn down the chance to knock that one for six (in his mind, at least)?

Permalink to Comment

2. John Thacker on June 29, 2005 12:03 PM writes...

"There is currently a cure for cancer but the medical industry won't tell the public about it because they make too much money treating cancer patients."

Yeah, you hear that one in all forms. Stack it along the miracle 200 mpg car engines that Detroit (and every other car manufacturer) supresses, and the miracle "pantyhose that won't run" that hosiery manufacturers refuse to sell, and everything else.

It's even more ridiculous when you realize that the same people tend to believe that the companies have complete pricing power and can force the consumers to pay whatever they want (rather than being restricted by the market.) Yet somehow they don't just sell the better product for even more, if they have such pricing power?

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3. Phil-Z on June 29, 2005 12:48 PM writes...

What everyone seems to forget is we and our loved ones suffer and die miserably from cancer too. And aids, and all the other illnesses with supposedly suppressed cures. What really hacks me off is some of these quacks actually convince people with aids to take their vitamin "cure" instead of the latest gen anti-virals. That's about as low as a serial killer in my book.

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4. WBurke on June 29, 2005 12:50 PM writes...

You guys are amazing, to simple minds at least.

Why does a guy working on a genome project in the mid 90's get told to forget about his discovery of a process that can individually identify and cure cancer? Why would his supervisor tell him to "get back to work on what they were hired to do, rather than working on a cure for cancer!"

This guy was my brothers roommate in Seattle, WA and close friend for many years who has since virtually checked out of society because of the realization that his efforts would be used merely for profit of the rich at the expense of life and health of his fellow man - not the benefit of mankind.

Of course, in your circles this man would be considered a traitor and silenced as a "loon" - but experience trumps suggestions 7 days of the week and obliterates it in the medical realm without fail.

The current poll in Science magazine about "cancer myths" is lame but reveals something that should shock the world to it's very core: Consider that there really is "no cure for cancer" - that being believed then you would have to explain how "the greatest minds in medicine" for over thirty years have collaborated to the best of their ability and still have not found a bonified, verifiable and reliable "cure"?

That from the very people that other people put their trust in when it comes to their health?

To put trust in a system with that record of absolute failure and waste is among the most reckless decisions a person could ever make.

The article in Science would have us believe that the 27% of people who believe Big Pharma is guilty of concertedly covering up the presence of a cure for cancer are foolish. Tell that to the many who've triumphed over cancer via the many known cures for it.

1 in 4 today, how long until it is 1 in 2 and then ultimately the truth wins out over Big Pharma and their industry with disease?

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5. Sigivald on June 29, 2005 1:25 PM writes...

What's this process, Burke? Why didn't he publish? "Because this guy told him to work on something else"?



And how did he, while working on "a genome project" (which one, pray tell?), figure out that "a process", conveniently undescribed, could "identify and cure cancer"? Did it just sort of happen magically, and test itself for him?



(And, er, why wouldn't the company doing the research make the gigantic pile of money that would make them all rich beyond the dreams of avarice that would come from such a cure, instead concentrating on unprofitable - in comparison - genome analysis?



Perhaps because you or your brother or the roommate are flat-out lying or crazy? That sure sounds a lot more likely to me than both the person and the company giving up fame, fortune, and the gratitude of all mankind for no reason at all. But then, I'm not crazy.)


At least the mental health industry is in no danger of being obsoleted anytime soon.

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6. Daniel Newby on June 29, 2005 1:38 PM writes...

WBurke said "Why would his supervisor tell him to 'get back to work on what they were hired to do, rather than working on a cure for cancer!'"

Because a team that doesn't bill enough hours to their charge numbers gets their water and electricity turned off, and sacked besides, which pretty much ends their prospects for curing anything more advanced than jock itch. If you come up with a brilliant idea, standard procedure is to write up white papers and proposals and pimp them to funding sources—NIH grants, the organization's internal R&D money, venture capital, whatever. You grab that money tree and shake. Running home to hide under your bed and whine about The Evil Conspiracy is a totally losing thing to do.

"This guy was my brothers roommate in Seattle, WA and close friend for many years who has since virtually checked out of society because of the realization that his efforts would be used merely for profit of the rich at the expense of life and health of his fellow man - not the benefit of mankind."

And where was somebody going to get the $500M+ to take it from the petri dish to the clinic? Why is it unfair to charge somebody $25k for curing their cancer, which then allows them to produce another $500k—$1M of value during the remainder of their life? Why is a scientist expected to spend the best years of his life locked in a lab, for free?

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7. not wburke on June 29, 2005 4:13 PM writes...

>This guy was my brothers roommate in Seattle, WA

Hm, my urban legend alarm just went off.

And I hear he had the cure for what was making Ferris Bueller sick, taboot.

Permalink to Comment

8. Puff on June 29, 2005 4:43 PM writes...

Burke is obviously nuts, but one of the reasons so many people are willing to listen are actions from the FDA like this,
more info on the tryptophan contamination. Compare the treament of the supplement with that of the recent COX-2 issues.

Permalink to Comment

9. jsinger on June 30, 2005 10:11 AM writes...

One quibble with Colby Cosh -- he argues that even if the increase in cancer rates since the 1970's isn't due to ascertainment, it's still irrelevant as the increase has leveled off. Huh? That may represent a falsification of specific wording in the original article, but it would hardly mean the absence of a problem!

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