Experimental cancer treatments can be interesting.Here’s how to rate them: Shot

Experimental cancer treatments may be tempting when sick, but many do nothing.

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Cavan Images/Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

Experimental cancer treatments may be tempting when sick, but many do nothing.

Cavan Images/Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

Note: Molecular biologist and author Jeff Stewart has worked as a consultant for pharmaceutical companies for over 15 years, sifting through data on new treatments to fight cancer. Last July, the 50-year-old father of seven was also diagnosed with stomach cancer. He spent the better part of the next ten months in therapy while writing his newly published book. To Live: Inspiration from a Cancer Father.

His book, he says, is a collection of life lessons and reflections that have “helped him endure hard times and avoid harder times.” Structured as a life guide to his children, it also contains insider advice for those facing a cancer diagnosis. The excerpts below have been edited for length and clarity. –Editor

As a cancer patient, I receive many articles about early cancer treatment and alternative therapies. I think all cancer patients experience these things. Because I’m public about my cancer, I get comments like this from more than friends and family. I also get messages from people I have never met but are trying to help.

Cancer treatment is not just a personal interest. Part of my job for over 15 years has been advising pharmaceutical companies on cancer drugs. My clients include large pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotech companies. You know the names of the big pharmaceutical companies. I have interviewed hundreds of oncologists over the years. Unraveling the scientific and commercial potential of anti-cancer drugs is a normal task for me.

How do we evaluate experimental treatments? Follow the evidence

A basic rule of cancer treatment: Evidence wins. You need evidence to believe that something will work. That’s especially true for cancer.

Step 1: Is the drug approved by the FDA?

Step 2: If the drug is approved, is it also recommended by the cancer guidelines? If the approved drug is not listed in the cancer guidelines, the insurance company will not pay.

Step 3: If the drug is not approved and listed in any guidelines, is the drug in late-stage clinical trials? This usually means Phase III. If so, cancer patients might be able to join it too. Even if it’s not in late-stage clinical trials, the drug is too early in trials to help most people with cancer today.

Get amazing results in test tubes? If I’m still here, talk to me in 15 years. Just started a Phase I clinical trial in humans? Too early to help me. cure rats? At least a quarter of the oncologists I interviewed about the mouse data told me exactly this punch line. “I have never treated cancer in mice.” Yes Yes. funny oncologist. It’s not just harassment. They hide their point in tired jokes. Most of the things that are effective in curing cancer in mice are not effective in humans.

The author signs copies of his new book.

Franklin Knox/Jeff Stewart

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Franklin Knox/Jeff Stewart

The situation is worse than you can imagine. Nearly everything new coming out of college is too early to help people currently living with cancer. Worse, nearly all fail. I’m sorry if I sound jaded. This is the reality of oncologists.

Yes, cancer treatment has come a long way. A really promising drug that can do anything in the short term is already in late-stage clinical trials. Oncologists are reading. they know what happens. Early stage treatment is not possible and cannot cure people who currently have cancer. I can’t help but think that one of the worst parts of an oncologist’s job is explaining why a miracle cure in its early stages of development is so hopeless for today’s cancer patients.

The Hard Truth: Most Experimental Cancer Treatments Fail

Here’s what most people who aren’t familiar with oncology don’t understand: Even the most promising cancer drugs fail. His cancer drug failure rate is the second worst among the diseases. Only Alzheimer’s disease gets worse.

Think of the tens of millions of dollars spent to introduce an anti-cancer drug from a university into cell lines and mice and ultimately to patients who undergo clinical trials. That’s a lot of effort. It may take ten years. The drugs being tested on humans are biotechnology lottery winners. To test cancer drugs in humans, the science must be established. wonderful. Scientists working on the drug believe it is the key to its effectiveness. There may be talk of a Nobel Prize or at least a Lasker Prize. Everything seems certain to succeed. What could go wrong?

Guess how many of those “sure winners” end up in clinical trials? 7 percent. This represents his 7% of the best drugs produced from the best science, and is so promising that pharmaceutical companies have invested from $10 million to over $1 billion for drug companies to test the drug on patients. was. Ninety-three percent of the “winners” fail.

What about repurposing approved medicines? Approved medicines can be used off-label by physicians. For example, what if an antiparasitic drug cures cancer? Why not take it?

The question, again, is where is the evidence? Anticancer drugs are special. State law requires insurance companies to pay for cancer drugs when independent cancer guidelines require their use. Even if the drug is not FDA-approved for cancer, as long as evidence shows the drug works, insurance companies must pay. Leading oncologists update cancer guidelines whenever sufficient evidence becomes available.

Why cancer guidelines are on your side

Do you know how this goes? The evidence is terrible that an approved drug is not on the cancer guidelines.

When I transfer information about non-standard, alternative, or early-stage cancer treatments, I will: Press Delete. Even if you don’t read it, you know the evidence isn’t there yet. What looks great most of the time fails. Early-stage treatment does not help people who currently have cancer.

Snake oil sellers are around cancer patients. They are overflowing over me. These scammers will make money by extorting money from cancer patients if they can. These scammers are vultures (or optimistic to the point of delusion). they have no proof. See above.

Even legitimate innovators find it difficult to imagine how their cancer drugs could fail. However, their anticancer drugs fail most of the time. That’s something scientists themselves don’t want to admit.

It’s one thing if you want to take an unproven libido enhancer. But cancer? Don’t waste the time you have left.

What should cancer patients do when standard care seems pointless? What if standard care is so unlikely that there is little to no cure? Ask your oncologist if there are any clinical trials. This is a perfect question.

Late-stage clinical trials offer cancer patients the greatest chance of receiving next-generation therapies before approval. We are in a golden age of cancer immunotherapy. There are promising immunotherapies in late-stage clinical trials. By participating in a clinical trial, you not only provide the opportunity for new treatments, but also contribute to the advancement of science for the benefit of future patients.

Understanding Diseases and Their Treatments Can Allay Fear

I’m sorry if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer. I am sorry that this happened. Cancer is scary. Everything is so complicated that I don’t know what to think when I get a diagnosis. We hardly know what to feel. Understanding cancer and its treatments, even if it was hard to hear, lessened my fear.

I hope my story helps you, even if your cancer and your experiences are different than mine. I’m not pretending to be an oncologist to give treatment advice – listen to what an oncologist has to say – but if there’s anything you’d like to talk about, please contact AuthorJeffreyStewart@gmail.com. I will answer if possible.

what’s next? Instead of exposing bad information about cancer treatment, ‘exposing previous mistakes’

To my colleagues in the medical industry: There is an opportunity to do good here. Cancer patients need a trusted, friendly voice to explain things to them 24/7 on call. The medical system is not ready to do this. That void is now filled by fraud and fear.

Cancer patients today are not in a neutral information environment. Instead, cancer patients are inundated with false facts and bogus information that promise 100% cure rates. That’s the reality we live in.

One of the defenses against misinformation we know has proven effective. Banking in advance. Before the fraud reaches the patient, the facts must be entered in a form that the cancer patient can understand. How can we do this without hiring a call center army of oncologists? I hope to become

There are advantages for all of us. A study found that a patient who practiced evidence-based medicine was twice as likely to survive cancer as she was. Demonstrating that AI cancer counselors have a positive effect on medication adherence or even overall survival In a clinical setting, it should be possible with a modest number of clinical trial patients.

The debris is there. Done right, AI cancer counselors could save more lives than most cancer treatments. If I can beat cancer, I would love to join you in that effort.

Jeff Stewart is Managing Director of Syneos Health Consulting. All views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of his own and not necessarily those of his employer or others. This essay is based on the following books. Living: Inspiration from a Cancer Father, Published by Wadsak-Stewart Press on May 15, 2023.you can contact him AuthorJeffreyStewart@gmail.com.

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