Changing Strategies vs Cancer

Sharon Begley did a decent job of outlining where cancer research is headed in Newsweek.

She did pick some easy-to-hit targets, such as the idea that cancer can be “conquered.” Similarly, there are probably just as many, if not more, visionary proposals that NCI review panels laugh at today as in 1982.

Yes, animal models are limited. But when somebody has a compound from green tea or a peptide-conjugated anti-tumor missile that kill tumor cells in culture, what tests do scientists need to complete before trying them out on desperate people?

Begley cites three trends for the future: biomarker-directed treatment, more attention to the tumor’s surroundings and prevention. All three make sense with what I’ve seen being discussed at my institution.

With justification, she cites Herceptin and Gleevec as expensive successes. But Avastin as proof that anti-angiogenesis was a good idea, I dunno. This NYT piece this summer calls attention to how expensive Avastin is (tens of thousands of dollars per year), given its limited benefit.

What bothered me about it was that I’ve heard cancer researchers talk about combining Avastin with other agents, as if that were a good bet for the future. Even more expensive! Maybe they can slice and dice the patient pool using biomarkers, so that they can spot the ones who will benefit. Maybe Genentech will drop the price if volume increases as efficacy is shown for more cancers.


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