17 January, 2007

Possible Cure for Cancer... and it's even Open Source!

According to this New Scientist article, a team at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, have found that dichloroacetate (DCA) kills lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells.

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.
It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Not only is this a very promising new direction in cancer treatment, it's also one where pharmaceutical company profiteering will have little effect. See, DCA cannot be patented, as it has been in use for many years. On top of that, it's dirt-cheap to manufacture. So there is very little profit margin in this drug, as compared to other patented designer drugs that can me marketed and sold at a premium. That's the good news. The bad news is that because there is little incentive for profit in selling this drug, there is little interest on the part of big pharma to subsidize the clinical tests needed to really see if this is effective in real cancer patients. This seems like the kind of thing that Bill & Melinda would totally go for. Let's see if it pans out.

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