Sunday, November 21, 2010
Thinking about current cancer research
There is an enormous amount of research on understanding and developing new treatments for brain tumours. To keep things simple for myself in writing this, I have referred to a few of the most recent below in the area of brain tumours. This is not a review of that research – I don’t have the medical background for that, and what I've mentioned is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg.
The point I want to make here is that much of this research refers to trials and preliminary data, often on a small group of subjects and often not on humans. This research can indicate exciting prospects for the future, but realistically, even if new products were developed, they would probably take 5-10 years before they have any relevance for those like myself with GlioBlastoma Multiforme tumours (GBM). Most of us don't have that long.
As well, the research that can seem so exciting often needs a more restrained eye cast upon it than that of the researchers themselves. For example, the article referred to below, reviewing current preliminary research on Dichloroacetate treatment, is tempered by more sober (and public) assessments:
(If that doesn't work because it's too long, this should do the same job - or paste the URL into a new window.)
I've spent a good part of my life in research, and have learned how to handle a range of research data, even in fields in which I have no expertise, such as anti-angiogenesis and GBMs. I think the science blog above warns us not to get carried away with over-optimism that new research has immediate prospects for the vast majority of people affected. Hope should not outweigh the reality of lead times and the bureaucratic necessities in getting a relatively safe new drug on the market. We may well hear much more about Dichloroacetate (DCA), but the jury is certainly still out on how effective it is going to be.
I have benefited from Avastin research in the 1990s and 2000s. Others will be the main beneficiaries of the current research in the 2010s, and I do wish them the very best of luck. New things are always on the horizon, but it is a mistake to assume that the horizon is as close as it sometimes looks.
Now, only read from here on if you want to follow up on that research yourself.
On 12 May 2010, an article appeared in New Scientist called 'Cancer's sweet tooth becomes a target'. [SEE Note 1] On the same day, an article appeared on Sci Trans Med entitled 'Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloroacetate', which introduces research into DCA for GlioBlastoma Tumours. (GBM). I note that a new study less than a week ago from the same source extends this anti-angiogenesis research. "News from the Brain: The GPR124 Orphan Receptor Directs Brain-Specific Angiogenesis." Elisabetta Dejana and Daniel Nyqvist - Sci Transl Med 17 November 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 58, p. 58ps53
However, as mentioned above, blog responses from those who are often more experienced researchers and medical practitioners tend to put the brakes on over-enthusiasm.
[Note 1] If you want to read the full article, you will have to subscribe to New Scientist if you don't already have a subscription, but if you're only interested in this article, then it's probably not worth doing for this article alone. This applies to most scholarly and research articles.
The abstract says this:
A DRUG that blocks the way cancer cells generate enphergy could lead to a new class of cancer treatments.
The first human trial of the drug, published this week, is reported to have extended the lives of four people with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
The result is preliminary, but it suggests that, as an approach, tackling "cancer metabolism" is sound. "We are still a long way from a treatment, but this opens the window on drugs that target cancer metabolism," says Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, who led the trial.
Elsewhere, researchers have started experimenting with a host of other molecules that might target cancer metabolism. "It's about identifying which target is best," says Lewis Cantley of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, whose company Agios Pharmaceuticals is screening for such targets.