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The real cancer

Published Feb 1, 2007 9:34 PM

A promising drug for fighting cancer is found. It has already been proven relatively safe. Laboratory and animal tests have shown it kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors.

You would think the drug companies would fall all over themselves to do the clinical trials necessary for the drug to be prescribed to cancer patients. Right?


This may be the biggest scandal to hit the medical world in years. Yet so far, all the commercial U.S. media have stayed away from reporting on it.

An article in the Jan. 20 issue of New Scientist, a highly reputable British magazine, gives the details. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have discovered that the drug dichloroacetate (DCA) killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells cultured outside the body. “Tumors in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks,” says the article.

DCA is not a new drug. It has been used for years to treat michondrial disease. It is cheap and has limited side effects. Scientists decided to try it on cancer cells because it affects the metabolism of cells, the way they use energy. This is a different approach than the chemotherapy drugs now in use, which are toxic and kill off both cancerous and normal cells.

What has scientists especially excited is that DCA has the potential of working against all types of cancers, including secondary cancers caused when cells break off and migrate to other parts of the body.

So what’s the hitch?

The article explains, “The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines.”

An editorial in the same issue of the magazine lays it out even further. Entitled “No patent? No thanks,” with the streamer, “There’s an anti-cancer drug with huge potential, but no backers,” it explains how the profit motive is slowing down what could be a fantastic medical breakthrough.

DCA is “cheap, does not appear to affect normal cells, we know its side effects, and it should work on all cancers,” says the edit. “But there’s a hitch: it’s an old drug and so cannot be patented. No pharmaceutical company is likely to fund costly clinical trials without some exclusive rights to make the drug.”

It points out that many other drugs that could treat diseases affecting poor people in developing countries are also left on the shelf without the proper testing, and for the same reason: there’s not enough profit in it.

The editorial even predicts that drug companies may try to manufacture and patent new drugs similar to DCA and get them on the market soon--but they will be “hugely expensive.” It concludes, “It would be a scandal if a cheap alternative with such astonishing potential were not given a chance simply because it won’t turn a big enough profit.”

There it is in a nutshell. The problem with the whole medical industry is that it’s not an industry to promote health, it’s an industry to promote profits. In fact, the more sick people there are, the more money there is to be made. Pharmaceuticals make up one of the most profitable industries in this country, raking in hundreds of billions every year.

In the U.S., where the medical industry is the most advanced technologically, it’s also the most expensive and the least efficient when the cost is measured against the general health of the people. That’s why 47 million people here have no health coverage.

There are many reasons to be for a revolutionary socialist reorganization of society. First and foremost are the need to end poverty, exploitation, war and the oppression of people just because of their nationality, sex or gender expression.

But issues like cancer and the messed-up environment, which can affect anyone, should make it clearer than ever that all humanity will benefit mightily when the parasitic billionaire class that currently stifles true progress is toppled from its seat of power.