Stopping The Spread of Cancer by Blocking One Rogue Gene: Will It Ever Get Developed?

BlogHer Original Post

Two male doctors putting together a statue of a DNA strand

What if the time came when 90 percent of cancer patients could survive having cancer?  That would be astonishing, and very hard to imagine at this point in time.  But a new study has opened the door to that possibility, and it could be in as little as 10 years that this discovery leads to big changes in the treatment (and survival) of cancer.

You see, almost 90 percent of all deaths from cancer are ultimately due to the cancer cells spreading to other areas of the body (metastasizing). Recently, new research has discovered the "rogue gene" responsible for the spreading of cancer cells, and with this new discovery, researchers hope that a drug therapy can be found to block this rogue gene and stop the spread of cancer.

Here is more about the latest research from Reuters -- Study: Blocking Rogue Gene May Stop Cancer Spread:

LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - British scientists have discovered a "rogue gene" which helps cancer spread around the body and say blocking it with the right kind of drugs could stop many types of the disease in their tracks.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia said their findings could lead within a decade to the development of new medicines to halt a critical late stage of the disease known as metastasis, when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.

Of course, it's too early to know if this type of treatment could be the miracle we all dream for, but it certainly brings more hope to that possibility.

The main stumbling block I see is with the pharmaceutical industry itself, and whether they will actually spend the money to develop a drug like this. For years and years, we were told that the high cost of medication was due to the pharmaceutical industry's need to pay for research and development of new drugs. It turns out that they are actually spending much more money on advertising their drugs to you and me, and much less on research and development. Personally, I've never understood the need for prescription drugs to be advertised to the public in the first place; it seems to me that deciding what medication is best for a patient would be better left up to the physician treating the patient.

The Obama administration is so concerned with the lack of research and development being done by the pharmaceutical industry, that they are proposing a Federal Research Center to help develop new medications. From the New York Times -- Federal Research Center Will Help Develop Medicines:

Whether the government can succeed where private industry has failed is uncertain, officials acknowledge, but they say doing nothing is not an option. The health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, sent a letter to Congress on Jan. 14 outlining the plan to open the new drug center by October — an unusually rapid turnaround for an idea first released with little fanfare in December.

Although I understand the need for more drug development, I still wonder why there isn't more pressure being put on the pharmaceutical industry to stop advertising and start researching?

The cost of bringing a single drug to market can exceed $1 billion, according to some estimates, and drug companies have typically spent twice as much on marketing as on research, a business model that is increasingly suspect.

Getting back to whether or not this new discovery of a "rogue gene" to prevent cancer from spreading will ever result in a life saving treatment for cancer patients. Here is more from the New York Times article:

...industry has become far less willing to follow the latest genetic advances with expensive clinical trials. Rather than wait longer, Dr. Collins has decided that the government can start the work itself.

“I am a little frustrated to see how many of the discoveries that do look as though they have therapeutic implications are waiting for the pharmaceutical industry to follow through with them,” he said.

What do you think about the possibility of a drug that could prevent the spread of cancer and save lives? Is there a chance it could ever be developed? Will it take a government research center to do what the pharmaceutical industry is failing to do? Tell us what you think in comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
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