×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Common Diabetic Drug Fights Cancer Stem Cells

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the getting-at-the-root-or-at-least-the-stem dept.

Medicine 149

SubtleGuest writes "In the latest issue of Cancer Research, a breakthrough study shows that Metformin, a cheap and common diabetic medicine, kills cancer stem cells — the cells postulated to be responsible for tumor resistance and recurrence after chemotherapy (research abstract here). It has been known that diabetics taking Metformin experience lower cancer rates, and now it is apparent why that may be and how it may apply to non-diabetics as well. When combined with Doxorubicin to kill non-stem cancer cells, the results are nothing short of astonishing: total remission in a mouse xenograft model. The results are achieved at levels below the dosage needed for diabetic control, opening many new avenues in cancer treatment and prevention."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

149 comments

They should have a drug (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616537)

that's stops people from posting off topic first posts.

I feel jealous (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616561)

I wish I was a mouse. Then I'd get all the good cancer treatments.

Fine... (2, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616615)

You also get to be whacked on the head and then cut up in the interests of research. This doesn't happen if you're human, Chinese criminals excepted.

Re:I feel jealous (2, Interesting)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616717)

I wish I was a mouse. Then I'd get all the good cancer treatments.

Forgetting of course that the only reason you have cancer in the first place is because you were force fed 300 cigarettes per day. That's what I read anyway . . . and free cigarettes are cool, but that many!?

Re:I feel jealous (4, Interesting)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616867)

Many of the mice used in research are transgenic; that is, they're genetically modified in such a way that they're predestined to develop cancer. Others, such as the mouse described in the summary, have tumors implanted in them. When testing a treatment (rather than a cause), exposure to environmental carcinogens to promote development of a tumor is less common.

In any case, be glad you're not a lab mouse. Sometimes even the survivors are killed off at the end of the experiment (though this is becoming less common, particularly in cases where the mice are left in no lasting pain or disability).

Re:I feel jealous (3, Funny)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616907)

I really, really, really want to post a Whooosh but your reply was so nice and informative I couldn't bring myself to do it!

Re:I feel jealous (1)

hydroponx (1616401) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617203)

I'll do it for you,

Whooooooooooooooooooooosh!!!!!!!!

Re:I feel jealous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617957)

I'm going to do a reverse-counter-switcheroo "whooosh" on you and point out the grandparent was fully aware the great-grandparent didn't _really_ want to be a mouse.

Now someone please proceed to anti-reverse-counter-switcheroo and point out that parent knew this.

Re:I feel jealous (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616927)

mice used in research are transgenic

That is an abomination in the sight of the Lord!

Cancer kills Murinaes, God laughs

Re:I feel jealous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617311)

GENTLEMEN!

Re:I feel jealous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618169)

No, the reason I have cancer is genetic.

Cancer isn't uncommon. Roughly 20% of the population will get one form or another in their lifetimes.

Re:I feel jealous (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618333)

"total remission in a mouse xenograft model."

In other words, this is the last you'll ever hear about this 'breakthrough'...

Isn't it interesting how, every few months, we hear of another 'breakthrough' in cancer research, always involving mice. Never transferring to humans...

Animal experiments are medical fraud. For fifty years they've been curing cancer in mice, but where is the human cure?

Re:I feel jealous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618739)

I'm a man, not a mouse - and I'm on Metformin!

Diabetes! Woo-hoo!

Cruel and unusual punishment (4, Funny)

cjfs (1253208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616603)

How metformin affects cancer isn't certain, but one possibility is that it deprives tumor cells of sugar.

It's a slippery slope. If we allow this treatment to go through, what next? Take away their caffeine?

What use is there in victory if we destroy all we stand for?

Re:Cruel and unusual punishment (5, Funny)

Nick Number (447026) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616827)

It's a slippery slope. If we allow this treatment to go through, what next? Take away their caffeine?

After that we cut off their supply of Robert Smith tunes.

That's right; no Cure for cancer say I.

Non-human model systems (4, Interesting)

sumthinboutjesus (984845) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616607)

I think we shouldn't get overexcited yet; these results have only been shown in a mouse xenograft model i.e. a mouse that has human tissue transplanted. Normally these mouse models are completely immunodeficient or else they wouldn't be able to accept a human transplant. Translating these results into some meaningful treatment for normal adults is highly likely to face a lot of roadblocks and complexities. The human immune system alone is much more complex than the mouse immune system, so you have to remember that animal models more often than not don't translate into meaningful human results. Sometimes they do, and that why model organisms exist, but I'm not putting my eggs in this basket just yet; when I see double blind randomized controlled human trials show positive results then I might believe this has potential to work.

Re:Non-human model systems (1, Flamebait)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616791)

How metformin affects cancer isn't certain

In addition to these results being only in vitro, here comes a sad reminder of the state of this ehm 'research', it looks like they know little about the mechanisms of cancer, this is the cave man trial and error approach still, lots of animals have to die horrible death for them to dig something up, but fingers crossed they finally drawn the winning ticket in this cancer beating lottery.

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617003)

There's a lot of drugs that work but that doctors don't really know why. The money-saving potential is so huge on this my initial reaction is it will face years of FUD and continued testing before any humans are allowed to benefit.

Re:Non-human model systems (4, Insightful)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617313)

This drug regimen is $4/months cheap -- this might threaten the whole cancer industry. I bet results of this trial will disappear quickly or some 'sponsored' research will soon came with a counter claim.

Re:Non-human model systems (4, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618017)

Yeah, just like those magic cars everyone just knows "they" have but that the big mean oil companies managed to stop. And all those wonderful herbal remedies to cancer that those "fat cats" don't want us to use and that cure cancer in a mere few weeks.

Paranoia for the win!

Re:Non-human model systems (2, Interesting)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618455)

Probably. But the drug companies cannot monopolize all researchers. Maybe they can buy this group, but once the idea sneaks out, other research groups will try, for their own money and ego. And so the drug companies have to buy them as well. Eventually, just starting on this research will be a get-rich-quick schemes for all the research labs of every college and hospitals around the world. Can the drug companies afford to drag into making these infinite payments? If so, that may be a good thing.

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618495)

If you aren't being funny, you might want to read up on economics, make some research into business, and the cost of cancer research.

Also, make SOME effort to understand how science and the scientific community actually work.

It's time to educate yourself, take the tin foil off and join us adults at the big people table.

Re:Non-human model systems (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618563)

Given the success rate of promising cancer treatments, it is a good bet that this won't pan out. That would also be true if it was something the industry could sell for a hundred times that: there's a low success rate for drugs in early stages of testing. If this treatment goes nowhere, we shouldn't assume the industry killed it to make more money, it is much much more likely that the results genuinely showed it didn't work.

I'm not trying to defend big pharma, I'm just saying we should avoid this circular logic of "Pharmaceuticals will try to kill this because it's so cheap" and then a few months later when it actually doesn't pan out, we say "Yup, pharmaceuticals killed it because it wasn't profitable." We should avoid that for two reasons, one is that even though big pharma does plenty of evil things, falsely accusing them of things doesn't help. The second is there's already a high likelyhood that when it doesn't pan out, quack doctors are going to be giving this to desperate cancer patients as "the miracle cure for cancer that the pharmecutical companies don't want you to know about so they can keep you sick and dependent on much much more expensive treatments."

Re:Non-human model systems (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618473)

In addition to these results being only in vitro, here comes a sad reminder of the state of this ehm 'research', it looks like they know little about the mechanisms of cancer, this is the cave man trial and error approach still, lots of animals have to die horrible death for them to dig something up, but fingers crossed they finally drawn the winning ticket in this cancer beating lottery.

Considering that the discovery that tumors have stem cells is extremely new and not 100% certain anyway, I'd say it isn't "sad," it's "lucky."

And don't put that just on stem cell research, most drugs out there are discovered through trial and error rather than "Oh hey, you know what would be great for treating this disease? This small molecule."

Re:Non-human model systems (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616861)

That was one of the most drawn out, redundant paragraphs I've read here on Slashdot. You stopped saying anything after the second sentence.

Re:Non-human model systems (0, Offtopic)

sumthinboutjesus (984845) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617053)

Heaven forbid you have to read something longer than one line. My bad. I'll try to keep you from having to read or think next time. You almost must not have been around Slashdot for a while. Next time try adding something to the discussion instead of being a jackass.

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

xonar (1069832) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617493)

If he was so bored reading your comment he should have just skipped over it like any other sane /. resident. Some people are too inane to contribute constructively, so they try to pump themselves up by hiding under the guise of AC and discredit everyone. I call ad hominem...

Re:Non-human model systems (5, Informative)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616891)

Translating these results into some meaningful treatment for normal adults is highly likely to face a lot of roadblocks and complexities.

I generally agree with this, but there are two things that raise this above the usual "cures cancer in mice" hype.

The first is that these are xenografts, which means they're dealing with authentic human cancers, which are in general far tougher to kill than cancers in other species (we are tuned up for great longevity for obvious evolutionary reasons, and therefore incredibly cancer resistant compared to most species, meaning the few human cancers that do become malignant are incredibly hard to kill.) A quick look at the paper shows they've used multiple cell lines for the xenographs, which is also good.

The second is that there is already evidence of reduced cancer rates in humans taking this stuff (pancreatic cancer only, and diabetics only, so limited but suggestive data.)

The full paper is available at:

http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/reprint/69/19/7507 [aacrjournals.org]

and it really is one of the few on the topic that I'd honestly say has results that can fairly be characterized as "dramatic".

You're right: they may lead to another dead end. We've seen a lot of those before. But this looks like solid research and very promising results. Clinical trials on humans are in the works, with patient enrollment starting perhaps as soon as next year.

Re:Non-human model systems (4, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617029)

Hang on a minute, you sound like you know what you're talking about! What are you doing on /.?

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617371)

From the looks of things, getting modded up. Now if we could only reserve up-mods to those who knew what they were talking about, we might encourage more actual knowledge here.

Of course, it'd probably also kill slashdot in the process, so please continue as before.

Re:Non-human model systems (3, Informative)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617031)

The interesting thing is that it's Metformin... That drug does several things at once (though it's side-effects make it such that you largely don't want it for it's carb-blocking ability...)- diabetics on that med tend to lose weight if they're solely on that one and abide by diet restrictions and are compliant with it. It'd be interesting what comes of the research.

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

sumthinboutjesus (984845) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617217)

I definitely believe that this research is more promising than most; however, I've see so many case reports and findings that simply didn't translate into humans. When I see positive data in patients that already have different forms of cancer in a clinical setting, then I think that would be a much more exciting result. Until then I expect this to turn out as most cancer research does: an interesting result or correlation that simply can't make a real-world impact on the extremely complex and variable disease process that underlies cancer.

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616997)

I thought it was also shown in human data. FTA:

"It has been known that diabetics taking Metformin experience lower cancer rates"

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

sumthinboutjesus (984845) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617107)

That is purely correlational; until proven otherwise, their lower incidence of cancer could be due any number of factors that are unknown to the researchers. Correlation is not causation.

Re:Non-human model systems (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617387)

Correlation is not causation. But it is a reason to look further. So, by all means, take this news with some salt. Just watch your sodium intake, or you'll never live long enough to get a cancer that this correlation may treat.

Re:Non-human model systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617483)

It said in TFA:

It has been known that diabetics taking Metformin experience lower cancer rates, and now it is apparent why that may be and how it may apply to non-diabetics as well.

Re:Non-human model systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617671)

I'm very interested in this now; I'm a type II diabetic and if the medicine were to control my blood sugar, cost about the same as my current medicine, have similar side effects, and possibly have the secondary affect of reducing my chances for cancer, why wouldn't I switch? The only reason I can think of is if the correct explanation for why is it deprives the cancer of sugar then my current medicine may be doing the same thing.

I'm diabetic... (5, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616711)

... and Metformin was one of the first drugs I tried. Too bad it made me feel HORRIBLE .

Not just all caps horrible, but bold and italic horrible, too. Fever, nausea, chills, cramps, and headache. We even tried ramping up the dose, starting in very small amounts, to no avail. Only afterward did the doctor tell me that a significant fraction of the population has the same reaction.

(I finally broke down and just took insulin and Actos. Works great to control blood sugar. Also works great for gaining weight.)

Re:I'm diabetic... (4, Insightful)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616989)

I had cancer and they gave me chemo (then a high-doseage chemo (bone-marrow transplant)). That wasn't a pleasent feelign either.

Still, I doubt Metformin would have had the permenant effects that did.

Re:I'm diabetic... (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617121)

Acknowledged. I'm sorry you had to endure that. I hope you kicked its butt.

However, metformin wouldn't be a treatment, but a prophylactic. And it's well-established that few people who will persist in taking something as a preventative course if they do not tolerate it well.

Ideally, they'll learn something from the action of metformin on cancer stem cells and derive a more tolerable drug.

Re:I'm diabetic... (2, Informative)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617579)

Perhaps you didn't read the summary, where it says it is used by mixing it in with a standard chemo drug? They only briefly say that maybe it could also be used as a preventative treatment. The big thing was a dramatic increase to the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

Re:I'm diabetic... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617065)

Considering that you want to LOSE weight in many cases with Type II (Largely with Type I, you have no choices- you take insulin shots...), gaining weight isn't desirable- I should know, I was on three meds before I carved out the sugars in my diet and lost about 40 pounds. Now I'm under control and merely diet and exercise controlled- and have been for the last 3 plus years.

Gaining weight is typically NOT what someone would want to do if they've got Diabetes. It's actually very harmful for many whom have it.

Re:I'm diabetic... (3, Informative)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617123)

Did you try the extended release Metformin - for many people that has lesser
side effects than the regular one.
The most common side effect of Metformin is an upset stomach & lots of farting.
But usually that subside after a month or so.

Metformin is really a wonder drug - if possible every diabetic should take it
- It's the one of the few diabetic medication which doesn't make you put on weight.
It usually results in a 3-4 pound weight loss.

- It never causes low blood sugar.

- It's cardioprotective. Diabetics on metformin reduce their chances of getting a heart
attack.

- It's dirt cheap if you take the generic.

- It helps with the Dawn Phenomenon [wikipedia.org]

It help starting with a very low dose of Metformin ER - say Metformin 500 Extended Release
once a day for a couple of weeks to see how it works for you - if you haven't already
tried the ER yet - then you can keep increasing dose - 750, 1000, 1500, 2000 till you find
the maximum dose you can tolerate.
If

Re:I'm diabetic... (4, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617211)

Metformin ER was what I started with. Didn't tolerate that at all, and tried the smallest tablets of the basic formula. That sucked, too, so I tried the syrup in very small doses, and tried to endure mild symptoms for a week, before ramping up to larger doses, but I never could build a tolerance to it.

Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (1, Troll)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616725)

The insurance company corporate HQ is all gloom and doom today. Cure for cancer found, people are going to live longer, it will definitely cut into the company profits. The CEOs bonus may even decline by as much as 0.5 Billion dollars (from 2B$). Something must be done.

Our intrepid CEO comes up with a plan. "Let us hire some PR firms to funnel money to our usual shills in the media. Project finding cure for cancer as the major motivation for so many young people to choose medical career and be a general do goody nobody etc etc. So let us paint this cure for cancer in the blackest possible terms. Let us get some astro turfers and scare the politicians that we have not (yet) bought. On the double. I want the cure for cancer canceled by the end of this week. Let us pull it together. We need to save our way of life. OK executive flunkies? Now Scram. My tee time is in 20 minutes. Where is my helicopter?"

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616831)

Not really. Cancer is one of the more costly ways to die, involving months of very expensive treatments that may or may not work. Its much better for your health insurance company if they can cure the cancer on the cheap and have you die of something less expensive later, like a heart attack or a a car crash.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616841)

Cure for cancer found, people are going to live longer, it will definitely cut into the company profits.

I know you're being sarcastic, but I've never understood that argument. If your health insurance subscriber lives a longer and healthier life, aren't you collecting more money from them?

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (2, Insightful)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616875)

Actually insurance companies make money when we live longer and die of natural causes. We pay our premiums for a longer period.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618151)

Cancer is a natural cause. And really, the insurance company prefers you die of old age, because that's the only cause that does not in and of itself cost them anything.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (2, Insightful)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616877)

This is AWESOME for insurance companies.

Charge the same rates and provide cheaper cures?

I'm pretty sure the math works out in their favor.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618321)

What if the cancer is a pre-existing condition? It's even cheaper then.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616897)

I'm sure you're going for funny here, but if people live longer they pay more insurance premiums and the company makes more money not less. Oh right...Car analogy.... If nobody ever had another car accident, car insurance companies would keep collecting (car insurance is mandatory where I live) but never have to pay out 5. $Profit!!

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618755)

I'm sure you're going for funny here, but if people live longer they pay more insurance premiums and the company makes more money not less.

False.

If people live longer, they have more claims that the insurance company needs to pay. The number of claims outweighs the additional premiums paid when considering the population as a whole.

It's apparently little-known to the general public (judging by comments like yours), but the young subsidize the old and men subsidize women via their insurance policies. This is a basic factual conclusion of actuary statistics. The older you are, the more claims, and the higher average cost of claims, you will have.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616973)

Cure for cancer found, people are going to live longer, it will definitely cut into the company profits.

So the obvious answer is to increase premiums silly. Don't get all bent out of shape, just pass all additional costs onto the customers.

Did you miss out on that class in CEO school? Costs go up, pass to customer, costs go down, pocket the revenue.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616979)

great ...

I think a cure for cancer (or whatever decease) is the first thing insurance companies are looking for ... people DYING FROM CANCER are the reason why these companies have to shed money !!! ... because their "customers" DIE. Keeping people living longer makes them pay out more money every year for their insurance policies.

besides, cancer is such a wide-spread decease that even your imaginary hard-headed money-making CEO probably lost relatives to it. I'm sure that last thing these people want is that this decease stays around longer.

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617341)

I think the word you're looking for is disease. A diseased person is very different from a deceased one.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617543)

A Freudian Typo?

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (1)

SargentDU (1161355) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617659)

How does having premium payers live longer without need for treatment cause an insurance company to fail? Your logic isn't. AC trolls is so stu-upid

Re:Oh! No! Cure for cancer found. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618545)

SO instead of spending 25K a month to treat someone, the spend 4 dollars a month? and this is bad? People will live longer, and healthier that means the insurance will get premiums longer, and pay out LESS.

Not insurance companies are a nasty bunch of people, so I'm sure they won't lower premiums for this. The CEO will get a BIGGER bonus.

The elephant in the room... (4, Interesting)

Fished (574624) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616765)

It's worth mentioning that low-carb diets have also been shown (at least preliminarily) to restrict tumor growth. See http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1662484,00.html [time.com]. I wonder whether part of Metformin's effect might be related to it's lowering of blood sugar, above and beyond the direct biochemical mechanism mentioned in the article.

Re:The elephant in the room... (1)

Vardamir (266484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617343)

Most likely; there is a theory on cancer that is different from the usual somatic cell cancer theory - check out the Warburg effect ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warburg_effect [wikipedia.org] ). But hey, why look for an underlying cause when you can pick your favorite "oncogene" whose mutations aren't necessarily a cause of cancer, but an effect.

Re:The elephant in the room... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618621)

That looks interesting. One question, though. How do you set up a double blind experiment for high fat food? If you can't do the double blind, how do you compensate for placebo effect?

Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

ticklemeozmo (595926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616779)

It will no longer be cheap, and no longer be common.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (3, Informative)

KCWaldo (1555553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616939)

It's a generic. Costs $4 for a month's dose. The price will not go up. They may come up with a new "version" that works better though.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617309)

Or, they could just patent the use of this drug to treat cancer, rather than the drug itself. It's been attempted before, where heart medication that was just about to go generic was suddenly patented as being target to people of African descent. I'm not sure what the end result of that attempt was however.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618555)

Make an attempt to understand how pharmaceutical patents works before looking foolish next time.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (3, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618819)

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-11275848_ITM [accessmylibrary.com]

Gee, thanks, I'll definately take that advice next time.

In 1987, the drug's creators had originally obtained a "methods" patent on using the combination of two generic vasodilators (hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate) that seemed to have a pronounced beneficial effect in treating heart failure.

The methods patent, which expires in 2007, was not race-specific.

Soon thereafter the patent owners applied for a new race-specific methods patent to use the generic combination to treat heart failure in African-American patients.

If my knowledge of pharmecetical patents is so out of whack as to be foolish, that doesn't say a lot for the lawyers, judges, and patent inspectors involved in this case.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

Orbijx (1208864) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617459)

$10 for a month's supply of Metformin in my case.

I'd know.

I (am supposed to) take 2500mg daily.

Still pretty cheap, though.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618201)

Some time ago, there was a drug manufactured for the treatment of sheep (a fatal digestive problem or something similar), which was marketed at $5 per head of sheep, since this was all farmers could afford. Then some medical research discovered that the same medical compound worked on humans as well. This was marketed at $50,000 per person, since that was all insurance companies could afford. After all, how much is a human life worth?

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

DrMaurer (64120) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616953)

Probably not. Cancer is less common than dia-beet-us, the price will go up a little, but I don't think it'll be that drastic. Especially if there's a generic.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

Orbijx (1208864) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618029)

Yeah. Metformin is already the generic. The trade name is usually Glucophage in my region, and may be one of a few others depending on where on the third rock you go.

Problem with that is, I think it'll go up more than just a little, and we diabetics might be encouraged to use diet and exercise to moderate our blood sugar, or a different med altogether.

Fortunately, I wouldn't be affected by it all that much, since diet and exercise have done their part in moderating my glucose. :)

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (1)

Adriax (746043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617009)

It's been out long enough that generics are available, no company will be able to get a stranglehold on supplies and jack up the price.

Re:Expect the price to go up, up, up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617441)

I pay $10 for a 3 month supply (180 tablets). Even if the cost doubles it's still cheap.

Is medical advancement stagnating? (3, Interesting)

Kirin Fenrir (1001780) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616785)

I never quite understand these stories; maybe it's because I have difficulty grasping the complexities of medicine (as many people do and aren't aware they do), but doesn't it seem like the discovery of a treatment and the implimentation of a treatment have become abnormally distant from one another? Far beyond what proper testing and trials should mandate?

Is this a patent problem?
A legal one?

It's starting to seem like we've all but halted the advance of medicine while we try to extract as much profit from each new discovery as possible, nevermind that real people are dying in the meantime. How long is it before this drug treatment is avaliable? 2025?

Again, I have little grasp of medicine, so maybe I'm being paranoid. Can anyone give greater perspective on my concern?

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (5, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616879)

The frequency with which potential treatments are announced has increased, and the number of existing, effective treatments has increased (both of these pretty much work since whenever).

So you see more noise about things that might work, and those things face a higher bar when actually tested out, thus there are more failures.

If you step back and look at survival rates for various cancers, they have gone up significantly, even in just the last 10 years (some of this may simply be due to increased awareness of carcinogens, but some of it is likely to be due to better treatments).

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616881)

Research genuinely takes time, so a year or two just to go from "test this" to "the results point at" is just the way things work.Clinical trials take a long time as well, for good reasons.

So nah, there are good, albeit annoying, reasons it takes years.

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617045)

Doctors that know about these kinds of "possible" treatments will find ways to give it to you. At which point you become a human ginny-pig but not part of any kind of clinical trial. If it works for you or doesn't the data may never make it into research documentation. If you die from the treatment or just die anyway the doctor is unlikely to ever tell anyone what he did. That would open him to loosing his license, law suits and possible jail time.

We could just try lots of stuff on people. "here try this drug. We really have no idea how you will react to it but that's what we need to know. It worked in rats so we think it will work in people." At some point this does happen but not till we can say "We are relatively sure you won't die because you took this. It might not do anything but it won't kill you."

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (3, Informative)

yamfry (1533879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617163)

Over the decades, yes, it has been taking longer to go from discovery to clinical implementation. Back before 1906, there were no regulations on the sale of drugs from a safety standpoint. A number of medication safety events led to the complex framework fo regulations currently in place. Concern about shady salesmen selling snake oil without safety or effectiveness, the thalidomide tragedy, the Vioxx debacle, and other events formed the public support for regulating drugs and biologicals. Right now there are 4 phases of human trials that drugs have to go through for approval (in the USA, anyway) -- on healthy volunteers, on a small sample of "sick" people, on a large sample of "sick" people, then follow-up from post-clinical studies. And that has to be preceded by specific animal studies with approval of an IND. There are a number of work-arounds for expediating cancer drugs, and the FDA is always finding ways to streamline and expediate the approval process without hindering the safety evaluation they are charged with. For further info:
On clinical trials [wikipedia.org]
History of FDA oversight [fda.gov]
On the Current act [wikipedia.org]
Again, I apologize for the US-centric linkage. Also, I do not work for the FDA :)

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (3, Informative)

werfele (611119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617407)

How long is it before this drug treatment is avaliable? 2025?

It's available now. Doctors in the U.S. are allowed to prescribe medication for off-label uses if it's approved for any use, so you might be able to get a prescription metformin for anti-cancer use this afternoon if you make a few calls. There may be a more general problem, but this is not a good illustration of it.

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617477)

It'll probably be a bit faster in this case(since the drug in question is already approved, and has a decent amount of clinical history, for diabetic use, the question of safety should already be mostly addressed); but the problem, in general, is that the point where media reports of "discovery of a treatment" start to occur tends to be somewhere in the "promising animal research" stage or even in the "intriguing in vitro results" stage.

At that point, you still have to move on and make sure that it doesn't kill humans(inordinately often, that is, risks are worth it if the disease, or the current best care has worse risks) which takes time and careful testing, and that it actually has the effect desired in humans, more time and testing, and finally roll out.

Drug companies are, undoubtedly, willing to behave downright evilly when it is in their interests. In this case, though, their interests are largely aligned in favor of the swiftest deployment possible. Every day you are working on a drug and unable to sell it, you are losing money on that drug. If your competitor has a drug and you introduce a new one that does the same thing or better, you'll gain some market share. Even if the existing drug is your drug, its patent protections are ticking away, and you really want to have something new ready to go before they expire. You could try just sitting on a new drug, and milking the old one; but, if you patent the new one, its patent protections will also be ticking away, so you'd be insane not to start selling it, and if you don't patent, somebody else might.

You'll note, as well, that most of the stories of drug company malfeasance involve playing up the drug's efficacy or playing down its risks, or pushing doctors to switch from old stuff to new stuff, or encouraging them to prescribe existing drugs "off label" for conditions other than the ones they were originally approved to treat. All of those actions suggest pressure in the direction of faster adoption.

Also of note is the fact that disease is really common and tends to strike a broad cross section of people(some diseases more than others, of course. Some are virtually random, some have pretty strong demographic or genetic factors). Odds are very good that a fair number of key players in any big pharma/FDA sandbagging conspiracy(executives, officials, scientist who could blow the whistle) are either themselves sick, or have sick friends/family/pets, or both. An alarming number of people will screw over strangers for money, particularly if they don't have to see it happen, or feel personally responsible; and sociopaths would do the same to friends and family; but the payoff would have to be amazing for them to put themselves at serious risk. If it turns out that key players in medical research are using very different therapies than those that are generally recommended, it would be time to worry. As long as they and their families and friends are using basically the same techniques as everybody else, though, they have a pretty strong human incentive to do their jobs well.

Obviously, I'm not going to claim that there are never instances of sandbagging. I'm sure that there have been circumstances where, for whatever reason, an incentive existed, and I don't find it at all hard to believe that they went ahead and delayed. However, it seems quite unlikely that that is a major influence on medical development as a whole.

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617779)

I think it just shows how little we know about (human) biology, seemingly a very complex subject, and how crude our "modern" medicine is.

A little humility and skepticism are in order, but they are lacking in news reports on health/medicine, quoting doctors and researchers as if they are engaged in a literary debate.

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618051)

In this case, you could theoretically start taking the drug TODAY. Nationally there is nothing that steps off label use, I know my dad, a doctor, was saying something prevented him from prescribing off label so there are cases where they are stopped (in this case they were using a drug which is meant to lower blood pressure while bicycling to help prevent cramps; the doctors would prescribe for themselves since they were the only ones on the ride). I know I've heard news stories about doctors doing it and them saying it was perfectly legally and I've been told nationally there nothings to stop it.

Your point stands for new medicines, but that's because they need to figure out if they're safe. There are some wonderful diabetic drugs out there, but my doctor won't let me take them since we've found something that works and that is older. He wants to wait 20 years to see what the long term effects of the other drugs are before I start taking it since I'm only 26 and diabetic. He figures let the old people who have less to loose discover the long term effects.

Re:Is medical advancement stagnating? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618705)

"but doesn't it seem like the discovery of a treatment and the implimentation of a treatment have become abnormally distant from one another? Far beyond what proper testing and trials should mandate? "

no, not really. There are a lot of people researching a lot of potential avenues, most of which will fail at some point along the path.
Just like any science.

"seem like we've all but halted the advance of medicine w"
not at all, we have made huge strides in medicine. The survival rate for Cancer is very high cmopared to 20 years ago. Hell 20 years ago Caner pretty much equaled going to be dead in 5 years. Now we have a vaccine for some cancers. A vaccines, This is a massive improvment.

Look how far we have come with AIDS. Look at how little time someone needs to spend i a hospital becasue of advance treaments adn surgical methods. I had my Gall bladder taken out. a few year ago that would ahve meant 4-8 week at home. Now I was in and out in the same day and only needed a few days of bed rest. About as long as I needed for my vasectomy.

These are tough programs. Don't let getting used to silicone getting faster and think that should apply to every facet of life. Not saying that is what you are doing, but I do see that a lot among computer professionals.

This is just the begining og testable research for this drug, and it takes a lot of time to gt to human trials. And then a number of human trials need to be done and this takes years.

It's a slow process, it's frustrating and yes people are dying. What do you propose, we start injecting people with treatments that have only seen one positive results in mice?

All this AND it's competing for time among dozens of other trials that also looked positive in the first round.
Science is hard.
Dn't fall into the mental trap of assuming there is an evil conspiracy every where.

I suggest you start making medical science a hobby and start looking at studies. Start to learn what's involved in blinded studies.

Rebrand it, baby. (0, Flamebait)

93,000 (150453) | more than 4 years ago | (#29616809)

". . . shows that Metformin, a cheap and common diabetic medicine . . ."

Sweet! Now they can re-brand it as an expensive and elite cancer medicine after they pull Metformin off the market.

Re:Rebrand it, baby. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29616987)

No, they have a new use for it so this new use can be patented, then they will get another 15 years of royalties for the new patent

Re:Rebrand it, baby. (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617089)

Nah, they will "tweek" the chemical formula slightly so they can get a patent, this will reduce the effectiveness of the dosage so they will have to quadruple the dosage of it which will accentuate the nasty side effects.

They will then tout this "new" drug as the new "de-facto" Cancer treatment and it will be just slightly better than chemo in terms of horrible nasty side effects....

They have done this before and they will do it again. Thanks to big Pharma which has its hands in every major country. They are worse than big oil when it comes to maiming sick people in the name of profits. The FDA is their bitch and they are proud of that fact.

Re:Rebrand it, baby. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618767)

yes, make the drug far more expensive to produce and then compete with the 4 dollar a month off label brand that's generic. Good luck with that.
the idea of big Pharma controlling this is a joke, unless the people running these companies are stupid. Which they aren't.

"They have done this before and they will do it again. "
cite please.

Re:Rebrand it, baby. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617287)

Not much chance on this - Metformin is already a generic. While drug companies can brand / charge however they see fit, there's already low cost suppliers making this. A quick search yields 200 500Mg doses - $39.36 or $0.20 per dose

Hey Big Pharma - Ha Ha!

cancer stem cells? (1)

virgil Lante (1382951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617103)

there is no such thing, as by definition stem cells must faithfully reproduce their genome. in cancer nearly each cell has its own genome, therefore there is little to no faithful reproduction and hence there can be no true stem cells.

metformin treatment will make the inevitable splash in the media along with whatever 'cancer gene' is found next week. will it lead to better treatments? doubtful. look at how well anti-angiogenesis drugs have worked in humans, and how well they worked in mice. in mice they worked well enough for a nobel prize. in humans they work for about two weeks before resistance is aquired

Xenograft? (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617329)

Doctor #1: "Is this going to be a stand-up fight, Sir, or another bug-hunt?"
Researcher: "A Xenograph may be involved..."
Doctor #2: "It's a bug hunt."

More metformin news (4, Interesting)

imgumbydamnit (730663) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617527)

I read this item immediately after reading the A Genetic Fountain of Youth [technologyreview.com] article in Technology Review. There on page two:

The new study also implicated the protein AMPK, a component of the TOR pathway even further downstream than S6K1, as a key potential drug target. The role of AMPK is especially intriguing because it is activated by metformin, a widely prescribed drug for treating type 2 diabetes. Withers says this means it may be possible in the next few years to design clinical trials that would test metformin's ability to prevent or treat age-related diseases.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...