Sunday, March 11, 2007

Working on a Cure For Cancer

The Wisconsin State Journal writes about a Madison start up company with a promising approach to both identify and destroy cancer cells. The process involves a molecule called CLTR-404 that cells transport inside themselves after injection. The trick is the drug containing radioactive iodine is metabolized by enzymes in normal cells and disappears. Many types of cancerous cells, however, are missing this phospholipase so the drug accumulates in the diseased tissues, eventually killing the malignancy.

Cellectar: Siemens, the powerhouse German company whose products range from hearing aids to refrigerators, created a special, mouse-sized scanner for the UW cancer center. It arrived just before Christmas, and has given Cellectar a true "inside view" of its test mice. The $1 million machine takes a CT (Computed Tomography) image and a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan and combines them into a single, very high-resolution image, Weichert said.

"It'll cost $40 million at a minimum to develop this molecule" and bring it far enough along in clinical tests to submit a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Clarke said. Getting it to market - if it works - can cost hundreds of millions more.

Clarke's goal is to get the application filed within seven years; maybe four or five years, if it proves to be as effective in humans as the early animal studies indicate. "But I don't think we'll see its full potential for a decade," Clarke added.

Studies on this compound begin 15 years ago. Now after $7 million of venture capital funds and a custom built $1 million dollar tiny little mouse scanner, this promising therapy is probably only $200 million more dollars and a decade of research away from being approved for treating the general public. Only in this distant future, if the approach actually works to extend lives, then the company begins earning the investment back through sales.

At that time, unless there is a sea change in the philosophy of the Democratic Party, emotional do-gooder politicians, like Judy Robson, will want government to set the price of therapy. Simultaneously, cynical manipulative politicians like Jim Doyle will engage in inaccurate populist pandering about excessive profits in private industry. The miracle of modern medicine is not an accident. Those individuals in power who knowingly want to tamper with the formula for success need to be called out as fools and liars if necessary.