As with renewable energy, cancer treatment draws massive attention because it is such a big problem, and potential miracle solutions constantly make headlines.
However, the general audience does not have the background to place these announcements in context, and neither does the typical journalist. It is actually rather easy to come up with an entirely new approach that seems to work under certain conditions (algae make biofuels! solar panels in space! mice cancer cured!) but has no practical value. Having said that, good luck to this guy and I hope the device works well.
(I work in medical devices for cancer diagnosis)
"I found a 1987 Italian funded set of clinical studies that showed successful treatment of tumors by the application of chemotherapy directly into the tumors."
It stands to reason that if it is true that directly treating the tumors themselves is effective, then this device will be effective since all it is is a delivery mechanism for the pre-existing drugs. While I guess it's possible that somehow the design of the device itself is defective, it does seem rather unlikely that they'd have come this far without at least testing the mechanics of the process on a pig or cadaver or something.
There are a fair number of drugs which "treat tumors" (i.e. shrink tumors or stop their growth), but very few drugs actually extend the life of a cancer patient due to the metastatic issue mentioned above.
Similarly there is a massive and well funded lobby for power production and very little for power efficiency, which effectively achieves the same result. Instead of spending the money on solar panels in space what about energy efficient fridges? And no, this doesn't shrink the 'economy' it allows us to achieve the same level of wealth with less resource consumption.
I see lots of people spending money on things that they're told will protect them from cancer, so there's clearly a huge financial incentive.
> Similarly there is a massive and well funded lobby for power production and very little for power efficiency, which effectively achieves the same result.
And, I see people buying things to get them better mileage too.
In fact, it's hard to avoid seeing this stuff, at least in mainstream US.
In short, I'm pretty sure that the "there's no real financial incentive" stuff is "why don't the proles see what's obvious to people like me". The only question is whether it comes from cocooning or just not paying attention.
Prevention is much harder to sell than cures because the effect of prevention is hard for people to see. If you get cancer, are given a treatment, and you live, you assume that without the treatment you would have died (death being the "counter-factual" observation that corresponds to the factual observation of your not dying), and thus that the treatment effect was big and important. But if you take a preventative treatment and don't get cancer, you don't have an obvious counter-factual to which you can compare your present state of well-being. You don't have the opportunity to realize that without the preventative treatment you would have gotten cancer and died: that counter-factual history never had a chance to play out.
1) Lack of better knowledge in the past:
For a long time people thought smoking was fashionable. Today we know it causes lung cancer, but it is now too late to tell all those people that have been smoking their entire life. This can be said about nearly everything in every other field. I would not say that we have better knowledge about many things now. Science is still not sure if eggs are good or bad for you, neither why many people develop lactose intollerance after their childhood. Because of that, prevention is pretty much a luck guess by now. We look at those who have survived and try to figure out why. Then we tell people to do that and see if it works, but there are so many factors that 'I' feel that prevention is in many cases just a gambling game.
2) Lack of knowledge of economy of scale.
When the industrial revolution started, steam was on its heydays, and all that, the idea of recycling and efficiency didn't exist AT ALL. People really thought that Earth could take everything that was thrown at it and its resources would last forever. Only now, with a population of many billions that we are seeing that Earth is panting, trying to catch up with our wasteful ways. The idea of 'reduce, reuse, recycle' to save resources is very new and there is a lot of social and economical mommentum it needs to overcome before it becomes mainstream.
Consider, if cancer prevention cost as much per person as cancer curing, it would be impossible to implement. So the prevention that makes any sense is cheap prevention.
Moreover, we know of many cheap preventative activities, especially exercise and healthy diet.
Unfortunately, it is hard to get people to engage in healthy activities. Indeed, it is easier to get someone to spend $100 on a bogus cancer prevention pill than it is get them to spend nothing at all and exercise regularly.
So I'm sure research efforts will continue on creating a pill to give people who live unhealthily the effects of a healthy lifestyle... but I'm more than skeptical
Some of these aren't represented by a massive lobby, but isn't that a good thing?
Your "feelings" are irrelevant on matters of fact. Show your work.
Technically, the idea of killing a tumor w/ a localized toxin is in fact already widely used, not mechanically with tubes but with things like focused X-rays or molecular targeting (drugs that preferentially bind to cancer cells). While this helps, it rarely cures cancer because 1) by the time it is applied cancer cells have circulated throughout the body and seeded new tumors and 2) it's very difficult to kill 100% of cancer cells, and what winds up happening is you kill 99% of them that are most susceptible to being killed by chemo giving the 1% that is most resistant more room to grow. Hence the recurrence is much more difficult to treat.
multi-pronged approaches do seem to work best; some variation of that already happens. Large tumors are surgically removed, anti-angiogenesis drugs work by blocking new blood vessels from growing, I mentioned some others. The problem is that even the most aggressive combinations of treatments haven't proved to actually work in practice, and death rates for most cancers have barely budged in the last 30 yrs. A reflection of this is that people will pay $50k+ for a drug that will increase life expectancy by a few weeks (or their insurance will, that's another topic).
People like me do train their entire lives to improve this, and we are working on many new possibilities, for example tracking circulating tumor cells and figuring out what DNA mutations they have to see if you can make a drug that is targeted towards deactivating whatever fraction of them actually lead to metastatic disease. Look up the National Cancer Institute's nanotechnology in cancer program to see more of this kind of stuff.
I don't know what the "unlocalized" side effects are and why things are done that way - I will say any kind of advance in treaments is incredibly difficult to achieve because you have to convince MDs and patients to go with something new when there is a tried and tested method, and it is their lives in the balance.
The problem with moderation on HN (and other sites) is that all you have to do to be upmodded is to assert something firmly enough. It doesn't have to be even remotely true; people will mod it up regardless. Annoying as hell, and potentially destructive to public discourse when it's as blatantly wrong as the grandparent's post was.
The article cited does not claim we've improved cancer treatments - only that mortality from cancer for certain age groups has decreased according to their analysis, which could be from a number of reasons. To my knowledge, one of those reasons is not that a variety of prevalent cancers has been cured to any substantial degree. Also, just because you can find a published article that claims something doesn't mean it's true (although it is a much better chance in the scientific literature versus popular press due to peer review). Especially in an active area like cancer with 10k+ papers, you can basically find a paper that will support any viewpoint.
The NYT is running a great series on cancer treatment that gets into these matters, I should have cited before, here's one of them:
Isn't the point of a device like this that it can increase the concentration of chemo in tumors while keeping the concentration as low as possible in non-cancerous tissue?
Which should help that point (that is, manage to kill off enough cancer cells that the immune system or some other treatment can wipe out any surviving).
(As someone else noted, the article referenced some paper supporting doing this method.)
Let us all hope this works really well.
The main thing to keep in mind is that biology is mind-bogglingly complex. More complex than our human, conscious minds can possible realize. This makes pills, devices and such much less reliable than one would imagine as an engineer inventing things, so the original poster has A point.
But... the very complexity of the biology field also means that the received ideas of experts about what is or isn't possible probably aren't right either. Probably, on the average, no one is right. So the experts could easily be wrong in telling you that a given approach will fail ... but it probably will fail anyway, just because most things fails.
However, it does seem like machines that rely on external tech might be easier than machines that rely on understanding biology - a machine which just finds and kills cancer cells seems more plausible than something tells the body itself to do something since the machine isn't depending the body to do anything.
Really? Care to provide any examples?
And yes, it was very criticized at the time but as you said, mainly by the media, as it seems. I doubt, however, that they did it without any backing.
And I was wrong about satellites, it seems. I was pretty sure that the idea of using them as communications relay was also dissed, but I couldn't find any references about it.
I can, however, give you one solid example of something that was completely discredited by the scientists, which is flight. It was widely believe at the time that no object heavier than the air could fly.
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I wonder if outdated assumptions about the limits of manufacturing prevented doctors/researchers/incumbent-companies from more actively pursuing this idea. It may take an outsider on a mission to remind a field of what's possible.
I also liked the 'summary version' of the conversation. Short, sweet, to-the-point. Two wins.
Suppose that it costs $1 and a quick test shows that it seems to help "a bit". Why not let folks skip a Coke for on the chance that the benefit is real while "thorough testing" goes on?
Costs and benefits apply to testing as well as deployment.
You missed the part about the worst case being death. What if using the device provides short term relief but makes 15 percent of patients die within half a year after its usage?
I read the response that pointed out that the worst case here was slightly earlier death and realized that in many cases the worst case is exactly what I said it was, someone is out the cost of a Coke.
The fact that some medical "treatments" will kill you is not necessary useful when evaluating a different treatment.
It's important to evaluate things based on their actual costs and benefits, not the costs and benefits of other things.
The FDA takes a lot more heat when someone dies from a drug they approve than when 100 people die from not having access to a drug that they drag their feet on.
But it's not too late to honor her memory. Press on.
Even if (or especially if) the device does NOT work, the iterative cycle for any med. tech is far too long.
1. What is the breakthrough here? Delivery of medicine through feeder vessel? The idea of how to implement it (needle, robots, tube, etc)? Or just the actual design of the rig to do it?
2. In what situations can you target a tumor up through a blood vessel and not have the option of cutting it out? Is this a brain situation?
I don't mind information, but that's just silly. People should be able to decide for themselves when to use experimental treatments, based on their own level of risk tolerence.
Shows how it works and it seems like a great invention. It's truly an uplifting story.
I think targeted delivery of chemo might be more effective in the non-terminally ill, and very likely would reduce side effects. Chemo is effectively poison, just somewhat more toxic to cancer cells than the rest of the body. (Often because it targets cells that are actively dividing - like in a tumor, or your hair follicles or you gut...)
In terminally ill cases, where cancer has metastasized to multiple locations in the body you might well still need systemic chemo, because you don't know where all the metastatic sites are.
Also... why do people keep refering to the "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel" as a nobel prize in economics? It's not one of the subjects that Nobel himself thought worthy.
It just says that he sold intellectual property to Intellectual Ventures.