Cancer Clinical Trials Pharmaceuticals

Too many trials, not enough patients

As research in new cancer treatments has grown, scientists may have run into a serious roadblock: there many not be enough patients to fill the needed clinical trials.  As the New York Times reports:

There are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on. The logjam is caused partly by companies hoping to rush profitable new cancer drugs to market, and partly by the nature of these therapies, which can be spectacularly effective but only in select patients…

As a result, there are more than 1,000 immunotherapy trials underway, and the number keeps growing. “It’s hard to imagine we can support more than 1,000 studies,” said Dr. Daniel Chen, a vice president at Genentech, a biotechnology company.

In a commentary in the journal Nature, he and Ira Mellman, also a vice president at the company, wrote that the proliferating trials “have outstripped our progress in understanding the basic underlying science.”

“I think there is a lot of exuberant rush to market,” said Dr. Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “And we are squandering our most precious resource — patients.”

While the limited supply of cancer patients available for clinical trials is a serious scientific problem, cancer patients should be excited that there is a significant investment in research and development to find cures for these same cancer patients.


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