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Researchers Find Potential Cure for Cancer

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the proverbial-cure-for-cancer dept.

Biotech 324

MECC writes "Researchers at Johns Hopkins University may have found a way to kill cancer cells without radiation or toxic chemicals. The group is taking the step of patenting the idea, as this new approach using sugars may hold real potential for the fight against cancer. This is not the first approach to use sugars, the article states, but is (by the researchers' estimation) the most successful. From the article: 'Sampathkumar and his colleagues built upon 20-year-old findings that a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate can slow the spread of cancer cells. In the 1980s, researchers discovered that butyrate, which is formed naturally at high levels in the digestive system by symbiotic bacteria that feed on fibre, can restore healthy cell functioning ... The researchers focused on a sugar called N-acetyl-D-mannosamine, or ManNAc, for short, and created a hybrid molecule by linking ManNAc with butyrate. The hybrid easily penetrates a cell's surface, then is split apart by enzymes inside the cell. Once inside the cell, ManNAc is processed into another sugar known as sialic acid that plays key roles in cancer biology, while butyrate orchestrates the expression of genes responsible for halting the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.'"

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All this... (5, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472428)

And still no cure for ca... oh.

Re:All this... (3, Funny)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472572)

Still no cure for 17 stab wounds in the back, although I have it on good authority they're up to 15.

At least... (4, Funny)

Baron Eekman (713784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472628)

it will make one person happy in each city

Re:At least... (2, Funny)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473454)

it will make one person happy in each city

Bravo, well played sir. But does that mean we're nearing the end game, or do we just keep researching numbered future techs now?

FP? (-1, Flamebait)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472430)

Great. Patent a potential cure for cancer so it benefits no one but them. Not to mention that Big Business doesn't want there to be a cure for cancer because they want to keep making money off the suffering of people with cancer. It's all sick to me. :x

-uso.

Don't be so cynical (5, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472492)

This is an achedemic institution, not Megacorp. They patent the cure so that
  1. Any monies derived from it can be fed back into further research
  2. Megacorp can't steal the idea and patent it for themselves
Universities have budgets to manage and need to behave in a business like way just like everyone else but they are not Big Business.

Re:Don't be so cynical (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472610)

Bollocks. Once a university acts like a business, it's ceased to be an academic institution. Patents are theft, plain and simple.

You can't steal an idea.

Re:Don't be so cynical (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472684)

No , but you can steal the process for making that idea a reality.

I fucking hate the perspective of you non accomplishment types.

Re:Don't be so cynical (1)

cHALiTO (101461) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472624)

wait..
I'm confused by 2)..
if the ones who find it and publish the procedure and finding DON'T patent it, and *later* comes Big Business(tm) and tries to patent it.. wouldn't the patent be invalid because of prior art or something?

Re:Don't be so cynical (3, Insightful)

Atheose (932144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472720)

Yes, but the ensuing legal battle would take years and delay the cancer research anyways.

Re:Don't be so cynical (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472786)

Bingo - by making the research public (domain), it cannot be patented. However, if someone were to extend the research, that could be patented with no benefit or restrictions placed on it by the original "inventor."

In theory, they could use this basic patent to prevent pharma from harvesting cash in the future. But they won't. This is academia, where the system cannot function without large cash flows. Do you really think that university presidents with solid six-figure salaries, thousand square foot office suites, and stone-clad buildings can be supported by tuition alone?

Re:Don't be so cynical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472824)

Yeah, when the tuition is 40k a year they can =P

Re:Don't be so cynical (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472930)

Not on your life. That 40k is eaten up so fast it would make your head spin. Though to be honest, the state unis have it worse, having to work with sub-10k annual in-state tuitions. Sure it's fine for 200 person lectures, but look at a typical grad class: $1000 class tuition (typ in-state rate) x 12 participants / 45 contact hours, 45 grading hours, 45 office hours = $89/hr. Overhead and G&A at most universities is well over 100% of direct labor. Even if you managed to keep a professor chock full of grad classes, you couldn't pay them more than $75-$80k/yr. And you rarely see professors with more than 20 hrs a week dedicated to classes - plus the several weeks a year of non-semester calendar time. You'd have to be paying them $30k just to break even, presuming you never wanted to expand the campus.

Re:Don't be so cynical (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473528)

I don't know where you went to school, but in my experience all but the highest echelons of classes had 20+ students in attendence, if not more. Meanwhile all but the frailest of professors were juggling at least four classes, and this was on a 30k per student tuition with a student body of 2.7k+, in addition to large donations from alumni. That's almost 90 million dollars without the sizable donations.

I can't say I know much about state schools, but at the very least I have my doubts that things are so bad at private institutions.

Re:Don't be so cynical (2, Insightful)

Boghog (910236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472986)

And would add an additional point:

3. So that Magacorp has the incentive to license the invention from the University so that it has a chance of actually reaching patients.

Drug Development is an expensive business. Unless there is a financial incentive (which at best is the possibility of future profits, there are no guarantees), it is very unlikely that the required funding will be made available to conduct the expensive clinical trials required for FDA approval.

Re:Don't be so cynical (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473210)

Universities have budgets to manage and need to behave in a business like way just like everyone else but they are not Big Business.

University research long ago became an arm of "Big Business".

Here's a factoid of interest: Hopkins has previously attempted to patent broccoli sprouts [sproutnet.com] . They're patent-abusing bastards.

Re:Don't be so cynical (1)

Bright Apollo (988736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473394)

I took the liberty of rewriting this slightly to see if I misunderstood it:

---------
This is a pharmaceutical company, not an academic institution. They patent the cure so that

      1. Any monies derived from it can be fed back into further research
      2. Another pharma can't steal the idea and patent it for themselves

Pharmas have budgets to manage and need to behave in a business like way just like everyone else but they are not academic institutions.
---------

Hmmm, seems okay to me. Unless you've been living under a rock since, I dunno, the early 15th century, you'd know that the merchant class and capitalism in general has been running the world. All those nostalgic for the gentler, simpler times of yore need some bubonic plague to refresh their memories.

-BA

My thoughts on any "cures" from this country (4, Funny)

rodoke3 (681504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472504)

can be summed up quite nicely by Chris Rock:
You think they're gonna cure AlDS? They're still mad at all the money they lost on polio! Curing AlDS? Shit, that's like Cadillac making a car that lasts for fifty years. And you know they can do it...but they ain't gonna do nothing that fucking dumb.

Re:FP? (4, Insightful)

Atheose (932144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472560)

Maybe someday you'll have a family member with cancer, and you'll look on the bright side and see this for the positive thing it is rather than using it as an excuse to regurgitate some anti-corporation blabber.

Re:FP? (4, Insightful)

rhartness (993048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472562)

You do realize that if they didn't charge for their services, they wouldn't make money to do further research? Sure if a cure for cancer was found today, for the next 5-10 years it would be an expensive treatment. The reason is because the 100's of millions, if not billions, of dollars it took to come up with the treatment need to be recooperated. People have been looking for a cure for years and every $100,000,000 failed attempt at finding a treatment is a write-off until a solution is found. When that starts to happen, prices always drop and treatment becomes more common.

Re:FP? (2, Insightful)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472780)

The Iraq war has cost $355,000,000,000 so far. That's 3550 potential cancer cures at your example rate, in the span of 4 years.

Re:FP? (3, Insightful)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473158)

You're comparing a budget plan based on Jesus coming back within the next 2 years with one for curing diseases which Jesus would be able to cure (that is, based on Jesus not coming back within the next 2 years).

Your comparison is obviously invalid.

Re:FP? (5, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472596)

For what its worth... There is the practice of defensive patenting. I certainly can't say for sure that is what they are doing, but imagine what would happen if they didn't patent it and some pharm lab did. You really can't cry prior art to save it because it would still lead to an extensive and expensive court battle that would drag on for ages and keep the technology down. Since, like you said, that is ultimately what a pharm company is likely to do anyways since they don't want a cure it would be an automatic win for their cause anyways. If the pharm company can patent it, or tie it up in legal stuff for a decade, they win regardless.

I am MUCH more trusting of these university research guys than some corporate pharm lab research guys as far as doing the right thing with the patent. Hopefully it won't be misplaced, but lets not jump to conclusions.

Re:FP? (4, Insightful)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472650)

Yeah, those fucking corporations and their cancer profiteering. The way they sell all those cancer drugs makes me sick. Of course, most of those drugs are intended to eliminate the cancer outright so the patient won't need to take some kind of drug for the rest of their life, but still! How dare they!

Grow up. The company that comes up with a truly effective, broadly acting cure for cancer is going to make more money than God, even if they provide it at a low cost. And because every company hopes to be first, everybody has an incentive to throw a hat in the ring. And of course, once you make that huge investment, even if you can't be first, you still go to market, meaning that there's at least some competition to bring prices down.

Pharmaeceutical companies do plenty of seriously messed up stuff in order to make money, but disease profiteering isn't one of them. If there was the slightest shred of proof to show that they're purposefully avoiding developing a cure so they can instead sell palliatives, don't you think patients advocate groups would be screaming for blood from the rooftops?

Re:FP? (1)

cytg.net (912690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472858)

more money than god ? Im all in'

Re:FP? (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472776)

How do you know that it's not being patented specifically to prevent someone else from patenting it and charging outrageous licence fees? How do you know that this group isn't planning on making the research free for anyone to use, free of charge?

Besides which, as other posters have already pointed out, this is an academic group, not "Big Business"; they're not out to scalp people.

(Oh, and "FP?"? Sad, sad, sad.)

Re:FP? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473378)

Besides which, as other posters have already pointed out, this is an academic group, not "Big Business"; they're not out to scalp people.

In terms of research, academia and "Big Business" have become interlocked to the point of being indistinguishable. It's become common for academic researchers to obtain patents, then turn around and use them to start private companies. An interesting and highly relevant example is the (since overturned) patent on broccoli sprouts [sproutpeople.com] obtained by Hopkins researchers.

Re:FP? (1)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472898)

Why is this insightful? In fact, this comment couldn't be furthr from insightful if the OP tried, "Great. Patent a potential cure for cancer so it benefits no one but them." Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't a cure for cancer greatly benefit cancer patients? Sure, Johns Hopkins stands to benefit financially from the patent but its existence is of major importance to those who suffer from the effects of cancer. And do you have any proof that "Big Business" doesn't want a cure for cancer or are you just spouting tinfoil hat conspiracy theories right out of your ass? One corporation will care more about being the company that developed and markets the "Cure for Cancer" than keeping it behind locked doors so they and their competitors can sell pills that cure the symptoms without curing the disease.

Drama, anyone? (3, Insightful)

Adam J Stone (1018520) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472448)

In other news: Many other researchers are currently working on projects that might some day lead to better cancer treatment methods.

Re:Drama, anyone? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472804)

Umm, if you're trying to say this article is as unspecific as your comment with that comparison, you're wrong... :-p

Old news (2, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472452)

I found that you can easily kill cancerous cells by burning them in a chimney or crushing them in a bowl. No need for radiation or chemicals. Those scientists are always looking for overly complicated solutions when perfectly simple ones exist.

Re:Old news (1)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472828)

A cup of bleach works very well, too. This medicine thing isn't as hard as all those fancy doctors make it out to be.

Re:Old news (1)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473434)

Tell me about it. I've recently discovered that a poorly managed hot room kills cancer cells just fine.

Mmmmm (3, Funny)

saskboy (600063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472454)

"as this new approach using sugars may hold real potential"

Mmmmm, sugar donuts. Is there anything they can't do?

Re:Mmmmm (1)

anothy (83176) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473482)

what's perhaps more ironic is that, given the link between obesity and certain forms of cancer, excess sugar donuts may cause the cancer in the first place.

so, is it like an even/odd thing? one too many donuts and you're screwed, one more and you're okay? is it by donut unit, or pounds, or dozens? bakers or regular? we simply must know!

Long way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472456)

This is just a petri-dish experiment. It'll be interesting to see what happens when they put it in a mouse or a rat, then if it doesn't kill the rodents, you have to try it in a few desperate humans who aren't being cured by traditional routes, then if it doesn't kill them you have to try it in people with more curable forms of cancer.

She's a ManNAc, ManNAc, (5, Funny)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472462)

and she's curing cancer like she's never cured before!

Re:She's a ManNAc, ManNAc, (1)

IvanTheQuiteNasty (958327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472770)

I see your point. The scientists didn't simply link ManNAc with butyrate. They welded the molecules together.

MaNAc?? (1)

john g the 4th (1040350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472482)

The seemingly more appropriate abbreviation would be ManNAd.

Acetyl (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472528)

Presumably the "Ac" is from "acetyl".

Man-Nad... (0)

john g the 4th (1040350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472570)

The humor is lost now. If there was any to begin with.

Re:MaNAc?? (2, Funny)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472612)

So its for curing testicular-cancer then?

Patent ? Idea ? (5, Insightful)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472510)

Anyone else feels sour when reading the line :

"The group is taking the step of patenting the idea"

Patenting .. an .. Idea ?

What the hell .. Like if the patent system wasn't abused enough. Sigh.

Re:Patent ? Idea ? (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472772)

No; rather I was excited by the prospects of a cure for cancer.

People who think the patent is the bigger story here need some perspective, IMHO.

Re:Patent ? Idea ? (1)

tjeffer (948214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472818)

Lighten up. It's a single sentence written by someone that clearly isn't well versed in patent law. I think its safe to assume the claims in their patent applications will not be for "an idea." More than likely, their claims will recite a method of treating cancer.

I hate to say this... (2, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472532)

...but the chances of the healthcare industry letting this fly if it is real are slim to none. Think about it. Chemotherapy is a multi-BILLION dollar a year buisness. WHy do you think there have been no major cures in the past...what, 30-40 years?

Because the money isn't in the cure. The money is in the treatment.

Re:I hate to say this... (3, Insightful)

CyberZen (97536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472618)

WHy do you think there have been no major cures in the past...what, 30-40 years?

It couldn't have anything to do with cancer being difficult to successfully treat, could it? Or that most of the really nasty cancers (lung, pancreatic, bowel) are detected pretty late in the game, huh?

Naw, must be greed.

Re:I hate to say this... (5, Informative)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472678)

you quite obviously do not work in the healthcare industry. I know that this study was done by an academy, but still...trust me. The healthcare industry does not give a shit about health. It is money, plain and simple. If this were NOT the case, all healthcare companies and pharmeceutical companies would be registered non-profit.

I've worked in the healthcare industry for years. Trust me when I tell you that they are about money first, second, and third.

You are so GD right! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473050)

If this were NOT the case, all healthcare companies and pharmeceutical companies would be registered non-profit.

Non-Profit is just a tax status. Meaning, you're more than welcome to make as much money as you want, but you are limited to what you can do with those profits. Some non-profit CEOs do in fact make eight figures a year.

The other thing, to support your argument further, I once knew a nutritionist who worked with folks to reduce their heart disease risk by helping them with their diet. The CEO of the hospital she worked for canned the preventitive program because the heart surgeons were complaining that the preventitive program was hurting their business!

You are right! It IS all about money!

Re:You are so GD right! (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473286)

Some non-profit CEOs do in fact make eight figures a year.

And your point is? A non-profit needs to pay competitive salaries or they won't attract good employees. Whether or not a CEO is worth $10,000,000+ is another debate but the mere fact that the CEO makes good money doesn't mean they are in the business of "making money".

A non-profit exists to meet whatever need or provide whatever services that they have outlined in their charter. They don't exist to pay dividends to shareholders. That is the difference between a for-profit and a not-for-profit.

Re:I hate to say this... (3, Informative)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473104)

The healthcare industry does not give a shit about health. If this were NOT the case, all healthcare companies and pharmeceutical companies would be registered non-profit.

Just a clarification: just because an organization is registered as not-for-profit does not mean it is not in the business of making money. Not-for-profits need just as much income to operate as regular businesses. The primary difference is the after-expenses dollar doesn't go into pockets, it returns to the organization (or funder) to spend it during that fiscal year. However, salaries can still be high and spending can be furious, just like other businesses.

I'm not saying you are wrong about health companies being driven by money, but many people commonly mistake not-for-profits with Mother Theresa, and that is usually false.

Re:I hate to say this... (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473254)

I've worked in the healthcare industry for years. Trust me when I tell you that they are about money first, second, and third.

Oh, give me a fucking break! Let me just list three reasons why your point is completely stupid:

  • The vast majority of hospitals and health care agencies in my area are either owned by the county, owned by a charitable organization or operated as not-for-profits. Their mission statements are helping people, not helping people while making a profit for our shareholders. There are some for-profit hospitals and agencies but they seem to be the exception rather then the rule. Ever hear of a Catholic Hospital? Or a Teaching Hospital? It's not all about the bottom line.
  • The health insurance industry has a vested interest in curing cancer. The GPs point (chemo is a multi billion dollar business) is quite valid here. If the health insurance carriers can save billions of dollars then they will. There is no reason why insurance carriers want people dying of incurable cancer and costing them millions of dollars while they spiral down the drain.
  • Most healthcare professionals (Doctors and Nurses) genuinely want to help people.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

Viper Daimao (911947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473306)

you quite obviously do not work in the healthcare industry.
No, but this guy does [slashdot.org] , and he agrees with the parent that you're full of it. You sound like that loon who told me that the American Heart Association didn't want the public to find out about the [spooky]dangers of aspartame[/spooky] because they were making too much money off of heart disease.

Re:I hate to say this... (5, Insightful)

henryhbk (645948) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472966)

I do work in the health care industry (I am a practicing physician) and the parent post is absolutely correct. I fact I will expand that the primary problem is that "Cancer" is not one thing, but a collection of many, many diseases each with unique biological pathways. It is remarkable how resistant many cancers are to even In-Vitro killing, let alone In-Vivo killing. Remember we are essentially giving poisons (whether direct poisons, immunologic or genetic inhibitors) which go after slightly altered human cells, without killing "good" cells. Anyone who works with oncology patients knows that every day we read about "miracle" meds for a given cancer, which later cause horrible long-term (or short-term) side effects which are worse than the disease.


Everyone who is whining FUD about there being a money grubbing axis of evil, clearly doesn't work in the real world. Having been completely federal grant funded for 2 years at a university, I can tell you, the lights don't stay on by themselves, the phone bills don't get paid, failed trials still cost the same as succesful ones... Even "non-profit" organizations can't lose money continously (and grants are being slashed every day), especially when conducting trials which can take years to conduct and hundreds of millions to complete. I'm not saying big-pharma is the least bit altruistic (and yes, they would sell their grandmother in a heartbeat) but since we don't live in the era of star-trek-the-next-generation where poverty has apparently been eliminated, and work and funding is apparently universal, one must make money to stay in business.

There is not a conspiracy for chemotherapeutic drugs to hold-down cures (as those would be the "new" drugs for sale by big pharma if they became useful therapies), but a conspiracy by cancer cells to continue living despite our best efforts. I have heard the same FUD about big-pharma sitting on miracle antibiotics, but in truth those would be huge sellers, it's just that bacteria have gotten very good at living over the last several billion years.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

beuges (613130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472634)

It all depends on where the research is being done I guess - if the research was done by a medicine company, then yeah, but this was done by an academic team at a university. Pharmaceutical companies will focus their research efforts on treatments, but academic researchers will look straight for the cure.

I seriously doubt that the pharmaceutical companies would be able to block this if it's proven to work - if their trials prove successful then they'll make that info public immediately, and once the public knows that there's a working cure for cancer, there's no way the corporations will be able to block it, no matter how corrupt the system is.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472704)

While I agree if it is proven to work that they pharmaceutical companies would be hard pressed to keep it out of the hands of the public, I can assure you that they won't make it easy. Beyond that, if they are working to patent their findings, there are only two reasons: They don't want some company stealing it and making billions while they don't get "official" credit, or they want to have more leverage in selling the research to the highest bidder. In either case, it still comes down to money.

Re:I hate to say this... (2)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472706)

Oh no, man, it happens all the time. EVILBIGPHARMA finds out that some group of little bastard scientists at some university have the temerity to try to find a CURE for some disease, threatening the lucrative market for ineffective drugs from EVILBIGPHARMA, so they send in a special team of hit ninjas to wipe them out and suppress the research. Hell, they cured cancer 50 years ago, but it's so much more profitable to sell sick people sugar pills instead of real medicine.

I know how snarky I sound, but Jesus Christ, who do you think runs these companies, Darth Vader?

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

nra1871 (836627) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472978)

Peon: Lord Vader, they've gone public with a cure for cancer! Vader: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Re:I hate to say this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473006)

who do you think runs these companies, Darth Vader?

Having been in the boardroom of one of these companies, it really depresses me to say it, but some of these guys (and almost all of them are old white guys) are about as evil as a human being can get. They talk about strategy and how to extract the greatest amount of profit from a given drug, and how to "minimize risk" from potential cures that might come along that would interfere with their profits. It really was sickening, and despite the financial benefits to sticking around in that industry, I just couldn't live with myself.

Re:I hate to say this... (2, Funny)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472982)

...but the chances of the healthcare industry letting this fly if it is real are slim to none. Think about it. Chemotherapy is a multi-BILLION dollar a year buisness. WHy do you think there have been no major cures in the past...what, 30-40 years?

Sheesh. You know, even mean, nasty, conspiratorial CEOs with giant handlebar mustaches get cancer, too.

Re:I hate to say this... (3, Interesting)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473022)

You are forgetting something.

The "health care industry" can be relied upon to act in self interest of each of it's parts, not the whole.

If Ford came up with a car that everybody wanted to buy (this is a thought experiment, so doesn't have to be anything short of pure fantasy) and it lasted four times as long so they could only sell a quarter of them. What do you think would happen? They call up Toyota and say "you know, we all make some money here we'll just shelve this".

No.

They go at it full blast and try to make as much money with what _they_ can do, to hell with every other segment of the industry.

So, the first research place to come up with a better cancer treatment and even if it is cheap overall, if they can patent it and make more money than they do now (keep in mind, they know other smart folks are working on the same problem, they gain NOTHING by keeping it secret) they'll do it.

You are stupidly assuming the paranoia about the big health care industry is correct. Big oil, big pharma, big lumber, whatever... they only act in concert because it's a mob rule where their self interest seems to make them do pretty much the same sorts of things. As soon as one can break out of that pattern and make more money, they'll do it. Or, perhaps some other company comes along with a "disruptive technology" and does it. Either way, the status quo is due to the issues involved, not due to collusion amongst the parts of the industry.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

Steve525 (236741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473196)

You do have a good point: A lot of money is spent by BigPharma (in both research and marketting) on things which aren't cures, but are instead on-going treatments. Many of these products make up the cash cows of the industry.

However, I'm not so cynical to believe companies would prevent a cure for cancer from happening. They are simply guilty of not making big investements in this area, because of lack of profit.

There are a number of practical reasons why it would be foolish for a company to try to prevent such a cure from happening, (and also why a company might still make some investments in this area). First off, if they don't do it, someone else will. Second, being able to brag "we're the company that cured cancer" is a marketting dream.

Even though the bean counters at BigPharma might only care about money, I can assure you the people doing the research care about other things, too. If one of these scientists thinks he/she has a cure for cancer, you'd need that ninja squad (as someone else suggest) to shut them up.

Overblown story... (4, Informative)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472536)

While this approach may be a promising avenue to investigate, it's pretty early in the game to get very excited over it. According to the article, this approach has not been tested in vivo AT ALL at this point. Treating cancer cells in a cell culture is a VERY large step away from even testing them in animals, which is yet another step removed from humans.

Re:Overblown story... (1)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473178)

Yeah the article mentions briefly the "side effects" which have prevented the use of butyrate in the high concentrations to be effective, but fails to mention what those are. Must be pretty severe since butyrate's ability to attack a damaged cell was discovered in the 80's.

One promising thing, it effects only the damaged cells whereas chemo and radiation have no such ability and just crush the immune system.

Patenting (2, Interesting)

Elentari (1037226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472540)

"taking the step of patenting the idea, as this new approach using sugars may hold real potential for the fight against cancer"

Nice to know they're spending their time filing for patents instead of, well, trying to use it to cure cancer.

Re:Patenting (1)

Atheose (932144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472668)

Do you actually think the scientists themselves do that? Ever heard of, you know, lawyers?

Re:Patenting (1)

Chineseyes (691744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473102)

Why don't I have mod points when I need them to mod posts like yours up and posts like the parents down

Re:Patenting (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472740)

Nice to know they're spending their time filing for patents instead of, well, trying to use it to cure cancer.

Why can't they do both? Seriously do you think the scientists have stopped working and are now spending every second they have filing the patents or are lawyers hired to do this?

Also what is wrong with people benefiting from their potentially groundbreaking work?

Oh, I forgot, on communist slashdot people should work 168 hours a week for free, live in a van down by the river and starve to death before taking any money for their work.

Except for you, and the rest of the slashdot crowd who deserve far more money for their skills and hard work, but everyone else should not benefit at all, that is tantamount to stealing from humanity!

Re:Patenting (1)

zymurgyboy (532799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473208)

Yes, Gods forbid that patent might ever net them some royalty money that could be put back into, I don't know, further research. It always pisses me off when a bunch of research scientist sons-a-bitches work the system and find ways to continue their endeavors.

Man, we should all reject the whole concept of money -- especially if it's derived from the evil patent system -- and find a way to just live on love.

Malignant Property (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472564)

The group is taking the step of patenting the idea, as this new approach using sugars may hold real potential for the fight against cancer.


The logic contained in that "as" apparently dictates that curing cancer is more important for making money than for everyone's health. Apparently without any explanation needed, or question expected. Also unquestioned is the vast amount of money spent by the public (you and your family, for generations) subsidizing all the research these "inventors" used to produce their new idea.

There's a lot of discussion on Slashdot of justifications for piracy of media content. Fighting the arbitrary assignment of all value from medical inventions to the last people to use their predecessors to cross a commercial threshold seems not only more obviously moral, but more relevant to basic survival. And a stronger study in the arbitrary contrasts between the "robber" and the "robbed".

Re:Malignant Property (1)

imadork (226897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472972)

There's another way to look at this, though. Even after doing all this research and publishing it (which should render it impossible to get a patent on whatever they publish), there's the chance that someone will start patenting all the minor improvements on this technique they can think of in hopes that at least one will be part of the magic Cure For Cancer. Plus, with our patent office so screwed up, there's always the chance that someone else could patent the basic research even though it has been published, and become an annoying troll until someone with big bucks somes along to fight the patent.

Even if I wasn't planning on making a dime off the treatment, I would try and patent whatever I developed as a defensive measure against patent trolls. It simply needs to be done in this day and age. You and I may think it is crass to put a monetary value on this treatment, but I guarantee someone has, and they value their profit over people's lives.

Re:Malignant Property (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473274)

Merely publishing the patent documents instead of registering them as a patent is protection against "patent trolls" who could try to stop the documented inventions from being produced and even commercialized. These "defensive patents" are BS. I know, because I'm currently cutting through the patent BS on a specific project so we can spend our money developing unconstrained tech, rather than wasting it licensing patents before development. Or wasting it on patenting stuff rather than just developing it and selling it.

I don't think it's crass to make money on medical inventions. Lots of smart people take risks attempting inventing incremental/breakthroughs when they could do something else worth money with less risk. From which we often get better health. I just know that in this day and age their risks are more protected by quickly going to market with a working, tested safe invention to produce returns from a pent-up market studied at the outset for segmentation and delivery channels, than by investing time, money and effort in protecting exclusivity for a long time. The "first mover" advantage offers exclusivity and brand equity. Without artificial monopolies that hurt economics, which measure lost opportunities for better health.

The US Constitution specified limited time monopolies for protecting inventors from competitors who hadn't invested in the costly, risky development phase. It balanced rights to expression and knowledge against realities of competition in this imperfect world. But in the past couple of centuries, the world has changed to make required length of those limited times shorter and their scope narrower, while the law has made them longer and larger. Solely to increase the profitability to gargantuan degrees, subsidizing terrible waste elsewhere, at the cost of less benefit to people from the protected "science and the useful arts". It's worse than crass to keep a system where a cure for cancer will be sold to only the highest bidders, while millions of poorer people suffer unnecessarily with the disease. It's criminal - or should be.

I found a way at achieve world peace (-1, Offtopic)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472566)

I found a way at achieve world peace. It currently consists in the idea that people not killing each other. Next release will address beating up and screwing over.

Plase send my Nobel prize to spaghetti@pattern.

+1 Happiness in all cities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472636)

Sorry, I couldn't resist

Patent, ay? Let's first kill all the lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472648)

Patent, ay? Let's first kill all the lawyers and then kill the caner-cure-patent-holding scumbuckets. I will personally shove my patent-leather shoe up each of their patent-pening sphincter-lax assholes.

Fibre (1)

mungtor (306258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472652)

Haven't they been telling us for a while now that high-fibre diets decrease the risk of some kinds of cancer? Is this just an actual explanation of the "why"?

Re:Fibre (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472884)


It's great to live long enough to see validation: Pritikin diet for heart disease, whole unprocessed grains and veggies for cancer. I'm old enough to remember when brown rice and Pritikin were fringe cult practices.

Not that I'm against the futurist ideal that someday we'll consume purified total nutrition. But stories like this suggest that we haven't learned everything about nutrition yet, and, until we do, "natural" isn't such a meaningless _concept_ -- although, paradoxically, a rather meaningless food label ;)

I was thinking that myself... (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473034)

Also, similar stuff about moderate amounts of Beer protecting against colon cancer, which I suspect could be related as well. I have a very non-scientific and "gut" feeling that, one day, we are going to discover that a diet based upon whole, un-processed foods is probably the healthiest of all.

Its cool they posted my submission (4, Informative)

MECC (8478) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472662)

But it wasn't what I wrote (the first sentence and the link are the same). Their post is better I think, but different. The next time someone has a thing about something they think is silly in the text of a submission, just remember that the /. editors change it before posting - a lot.

Not a complaint - an observation.

butyrate? (1)

kibbylow (257730) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472676)

Is that pronounced booty-rate?

You science types are hilarious!

Makes me think of Thebacon Hydrochloride... seriously, the-bacon?

Cure for cancer patented.... (5, Funny)

mblase (200735) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472722)

...still no cure for greed.

Pity medical advances can't be GPL'd (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473116)

I know this has been said before so, perhaps it is redundant. However, if "patent" is the current rule, then it becomes necessary to use it defensively. I.E. if the university does not patent it, then someone else might. What is needed is a GPL for medicine.

Cancer stem cells (3, Interesting)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472726)

Is there any evidence this will be effective against the cancer stem cells [wikipedia.org] that are thought to continually produce cancer cells? Those are supposed to be much more difficult to destroy, and if you don't kill them, the cancer will just keep coming back.

Re:Cancer stem cells (2, Funny)

Lobster Quadrille (965591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472936)

You have to kill all the minions first with the sugar compound first, then you are free to take on the boss cell. The red bosses are easy to take out, but the blue ones move a lot faster. Best bet is to get past it and get the axe.

ghb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472774)

How would ghb relate to this (ghb is gamma hydroxy butyric acid)?

kind regards,

Robin

Don't hold your breath... (3, Interesting)

ktulus cry (607800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472778)

Thousands of compounds look like promising anti-cancer agents in cancer cell culture models. They haven't done any testing in normal cell culture or in any animals. It would be awesome if this worked, but it won't do anyone any good if it induces apoptosis in normal cells.

Much ado about...not much (4, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472794)

"The Johns Hopkins researchers cautioned that their double-punch molecule, described in the December issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology, has not yet been tested on animals or humans."

Relevant information: not yet tested on whole living systems. They pissed off some cancer cells in a Petri dish. Big deal. You know what kills cancer cells in Petri dishes? A sledgehammer. Cyanide. Dynamite. Driving over the Petri dish with a Buick. None of these therapies are likely to be useful, however.

Wait, you cry. Laetrile released cyanide in vivo, and that was an (alleged) therapy.

Yeah, systemic poison-giving is already at hand. It is called chemotherapy, and it sucks. It can work, but it is never pretty.

Infusing the patient with sialic acid, which will enevitably infiltrate by this method into every cell, cancerous or not, is twiddling with every biological pathway with which sialic acid interacts. Butyric acid (the essence of sour butter)? Rub it on. Hasn't harmed anyone yet - whats the LD50 for old butter?

Maybe there is promise here, and maybe there is just breathless scientific prose in a self-serving PR release.

My guess is that once whole animals come into the picture, these researchers, as many many before, will find out that biochemistry farts in your Petri dish's general direction.

and sugar substitutes? (1)

sowhattf (1043836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472808)

Makes me wonder what possible correlation their could be to the rise in colon cancer and the use of sugar substitutes instead of good old sugar? And I just picked up a gallon of Splenda at Costco! Umph.

Calm down, people (4, Funny)

DJPenguin (17736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472850)

It's only a cure for cancer, not a new operating system!

A bit too early to get excited... (3, Interesting)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472870)

I hate to be pessimistic, but I doubt that this will work in animals. It depends too much on predictable cellular behavior (primarily that whatever enzymes are going to split this thing apart will be present) but cancer cells are by nature unpredictable. If even one cell in a tumor is immune to even one of the steps that this drug depends on, the entire tumor is going to come back resistant because selective pressure has been exerted for that cell's trait.

Not that we've actually tried it or anything (1)

ahab_2001 (610339) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472874)

Second paragraph:

"The Johns Hopkins researchers cautioned that their double-punch molecule . . . has not yet been tested on animals or humans."

Whatever flack came up with the headline "Cancer Cure Patented" (in the press release the poster refers to) ought to be horsewhipped.

Again? (3, Insightful)

WhoReallyCares (693656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472882)

For years we've been hearing about breakthough in cancer therapies once every month or so. Now put yourself in shoes of someone who's struggling with cancer for life... Hope.

Go find some interview with a journalist who had been or still is fighting with this illness. They all say they've become more cautions when choosing such news for headlines in their newspapers or tv news.

To quote Champ Kind (1)

Stonent1 (594886) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472890)

But we found that when the right sugar is matched with the right chemical partner, it can deliver a powerful double-whammy against cancer cells."

WHAMMY!

It is partially offtopic... (4, Interesting)

cfan (599825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472922)

but does someone know why muscle cell cancer is so rare ?
Most of our body is made of muscle or fat cells, yet sarcoma is quite rare.
Has someone studied a way to make the other kinds of cells so resistent to cancer ?

Re:It is partially offtopic... (3, Informative)

lbbros (900904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473198)

Muscle cells aren't your average cell types. You're used to a single cell having a membrane and a nucleus (ok, this is a HUGE oversimplification, but useful for the purpose). Muscle cells are made up by several cells fused together (they're called "multi-nucleate" cells) early in the development process. Aside that, like neurons, they're "stuck" into "non-replicating mode", that is, once they're fully formed they're permanently locked out of the cellular cycle.
That's why sarcomas and neuroblastomas (neuron tumors) are rare. They never occur on the mature cell (unable to divide) but rather on the precursors (that can still divide). And you don't have many of these (if any) in an adult organism.

High fibre diet is the answer? (3, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473008)

High fibre diet produces large quantities of cancer inhibiting chemical. And the fibre content of our diet started going down as we started consuming more and more refined foods. And refined foods became more widespread after agriculture was industrialized and it met the high pressure marketing and advertizing campaign.

If the claims are true, the vegetarians and those ethnic groups that have lots of fiber in their diet should have lower cancer rates. Some epidemiological (sp?) study should be able to figure out the patterns. Should study groups with highly off the norm dietary habits. Results would be intersting.

insert your favourite big agro conspiracy theory that has depressed the natural and less refined food consumption in America

Big impact... (1)

Scratch-O-Matic (245992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473014)

This will cause a sea change in the Fark headlines.

no such thing as "cancer" (2, Insightful)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473332)

This approach may turn out to be useful, but it's important to keep in mind that "cancer" isn't a single disease, it's hundreds of different ones (albeit related); as a result, there is unlikely ever to be "the cure for cancer". Also, note that the researchers have only shown that the treatment kills cancer cells, but it still remains to be shown that it doesn't cause other problems, something that's a real possibility given its mechanism of action.

I thought there was already a cure? (4, Funny)

transmetal (904896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473470)

I heard Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he's never cried.
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