June 04, 2012
Smart Bomb Drugs, Immune Enhancement Against Cancer

An Associated Press article takes a look at smart bomb drugs and other advances reported on in the recent 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

—New “smart” drugs that deliver powerful poisons directly to cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone.

—A new tool that helps the immune system attack a broad range of cancer types.

The basic problem with cancer is that cancer cells are your own cells. Their similarities to normal cell make them very hard to target without a lot of "friendly fire" deaths of healthy cell. Biotechnological advances (e.g. DNA sequencing) help in part because they allow identification of many more differences between cancer cells and normal cells. What is still an open question: how many unique (or nearly unique) features of cancer cells will be found? How hard to exploit those differences to kill only cancer cells?

All the abstracts for the 2012 annual meeting of (ASCO) are online. Looking thru the category Immunotherapy and Biologic Therapy I count 103 abstracts.

With populations aging and the incidence of cancer soaring pharmaceutical companies are investing more in cancer therapy development. As a result more of the research presented at ASCO has industry involvement. I see this as a good thing because it indicate an acceleration of the rate at which research will get translated into treatments brought to market.

They found that 48% of research accepted for presentation at the meeting in 2011 came from a group where at least one author had a relationship to industry—up from 39% of research presented in 2006. These ties to industry appeared to increase every year.

Interestingly, in a second related abstract by the same authors, Beverly Moy, M.D., M.P.H., clinical director of the Breast Oncology Program and a medical oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, reported that high profile research—selected to be presented more prominently at the meeting—was more likely to come from scientists with relationships to industry. Studies from authors with ties to industry also tended to receive higher scores from their peers.

Industry is going to get more involved in treatments that show the most promise. With advances being made in underlying biotechnologies (e.g. cheap DNA sequencing, microfluidics, gene chips, biotechnologies for growing immune cells) used to identify targets for cancer therapy and for creating treatments the long war against cancer should start producing more victories in the next 20 years.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 June 04 06:22 AM  Aging Cancer Studies

PacRim Jim said at June 4, 2012 6:52 PM:

This aging American is fortunate to be alive at a time when we humans have an improving chance against terrible chronic diseases.
I have deep respect for the scientists conducting research that will benefit their fellow humans.
Thank you.

willis said at June 7, 2012 8:29 AM:

Surely you understand that these greedy, grasping doctors are the enenmies of us all and that healthcare will only become effective and affordable when completey taken over by the government.

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