Possible Insight

Archive for the ‘Cancer’ Category

Killing Cancer Stem Cells

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My second cancer post in a row.  Rafe must have made my news antennae more sensitive to the issue.

The Broad Institute announced that they have identified a compound that kills breast cancer stem cells: salinomycin.  What’s particularly cool is the way they went about it.  Evidently, cancer stem cells tend to lose their “stemness” in the lab, making it hard to run tests on them.  The Broad team overcame this challenge by figuring out how to convert regular cancer cells to stem-like cells to get a stable population.

With this foundation in place, they constructed a large-scale screening operation and searched for activity in thousands of compounds.  Once they identified active compounds, they tested them on mice.  Lo and behold, salinomycin dramatically reduced (100 to 1) the cancer stem cell population in mice with breast cancer.

Even better, they can apply this same technique to any cancer that produces solid tumors maintained by stem cells.


Written by Kevin

August 18, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Incentive Problem in Cancer Drug Trials

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I saw this brief New York Times article syndicated in the San Jose Mercury News.  Evidently, one of the challenges in identifying new cancer treatments is recruiting enough patients for drug trials.  The issue is that oncologists have little incentive to encourage their patients to enroll in drug trials.

Evidently, 60% to 80% of an oncologist’s revenues come from providing chemotherapy.  When a patient enrolls in a trial, his doctor loses that revenue.  As Scott Schaefer recently posted, the evidence is pretty clear that doctors respond to financial incentives.  Result: a dearth of volunteers.  So here’s an idea.  Let’s pay a significant finder’s fee to oncologists that refer patients to trials.  You could even start a “charity” to do this.

Written by Kevin

August 16, 2009 at 2:11 pm