Sitting in a refrigerator in a Swedish laboratory is what promises to be a cheap and effective cancer treatment. So why are the trials to bring it to market not going ahead? A great article in The Telegraph explores this interesting subject.
On the snow-clotted plains of central Sweden a self-deprecating gene therapist seems to have invented a virus that eliminates the type of cancer that killed Steve Jobs. The results are only in the lab so far, not in humans, and many treatments that work in the lab can turn out to be not so effective in humans. However, adenovirus serotype 5 is a common virus in which, Prof Essand says he sometimes uses the phrase, it is like “an assassin who kills all the bad guys”.
Cheap to produce, the virus is exquisitely precise, with only mild, flu-like side-effects in humans. Photographs in research reports show tumours in test mice melting away. ‘It is amazing,’ Prof Essand gleams in wonder. ‘It’s better than anything else. Tumour cell lines that are resistant to every other drug, it kills them in these animals.’
Yet as things stand, Ad5[CgA-E1A-miR122]PTD – to give it the full scientific name – is never going to be tested to see if it might also save humans. Since 2010 it has been kept in a bedsit-sized mini freezer in a busy lobby outside Prof Essand’s office, gathering frost.
So why is it not more well know and why is it being kept on ice? Funding and the need for £1 million. The reason that Magnus Essand needs £1 million to bring this medicine to patients is not the production, but the health-and-safety paperwork to get the trials started. Trials come in three phases. What Magnus was suggesting for his trifling £1 million was not just a phase I trial, but also a phase II, which, all being well, would bring the virus right to the point where a big pharmaceuticals company would pay 10 or 100 times as much to take it over and organise the phase III trial required by law to presage full-scale drug development.
‘So, if Calvin Klein or Elton John or… Paris Hilton stumped up a million, could they have the virus named after them?’ Asked The Telegraph’s journalist. ‘Why not?’ Magnus nodded.
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