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The end of chemo? One magic pill may hold answer

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Gleevec is an inspiration for scientists around the world working on drugs that will kill cancer cells but leave healthy tissue alone ...Read the full article

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  1. Stude Ham from Outremont, Canada writes: The article states that 'By 1942, two researchers at Yale, Louis Goodman and Alfred Gilman, were ready to try nitrogen mustard in a human patient. A 48-year-old silversmith volunteered. He was in the terminal stages of lymphatic cancer, but after 10 doses, his tumours disappeared.'

    Is there a reason that some 65 years have elapsed without noticeable mention of this historic discovery? until now? was this knowledge deliberately suppressed until now? why did we not become aware of more trials of this 1942 recipe on other terminally ill cancer patients? could this nitrogen-mustard gas mixture have helped those close to us whom we watched die from cancer in such suffering and agony? and if so, why were we not told anything of this for some 65 years until now?
  2. Eric Nippard from Stephenville, NL, Canada writes: In response to the following, 'Breast-cancer cells, for example, often move to the bones. This is quite a feat, since they first have to morph from breast cells into bone cells, Dr. Giguère says. He and his colleagues are trying to figure out how they do it -- what makes them different from the cells in the bulk of the tumour, which stay in the breast?':

    Look no further than the recent discoveries on cancer and stem cell relationships. If the cells are morphing, stem cells pose the most obvious answer to the why. All it will take is a will to direct funding away from conventional chemotherapy treatments, to those that prevent the stem cells from changing. That should stop cancer in its tracks!!
  3. C A from Canada writes: This is very promising news. I have a friend with cervical cancer - chemotherapy and radiation hasn't worked. Does anyone know of alternative therapies she could try? For example, clinical trials or out of country treatments? She is very young and I'd like to make sure she's around for a long time.

  4. Sam B from Cambridge, Canada writes: sigh....Stude Ham.........No, this knowledge has not been 'deliberately suppressed until now'. We (as in the scientific and medical community) became aware of the ability of nitrogen mustard to kill cancer cells around the same time the 1942 test was done. In fact, if you could comprehend the article, you would have discovered that nitrogen mustard was one of the very first chemo drugs used - of which, the vast majority of cancer patients must endure.
    So short story, nitrogen mustard = chemo = standard treatment of ever cancer patient since, ohhh, about 1942. Isn't reading comprehension grand?

    Obviously conspiracy theories (however unfounded) and distrust of the “establishment” are more in vogue than basic facts.
  5. emilio D from Vancouver, Canada writes: This is the wonder drug for cancer. And no side-effects except the patient who is taking it developes very white skin like a ghost. Just sit beside Nicole Kidman and nobody will notice the difference. They should try this on all types of cancer and eventually replace chemo. A breakthrough, for sure.
  6. John Hinkley from Thornhill, Canada writes: After seeing what various chemotherapy treatments (a different one every the breast cancer adapted) did to my wife over her 16 year battle with breast cancer - THIS IS EXCELLENT NEWS!

    To post #2 - once the original breast cancer metasticizes (? sp ?) it can show up as breast cancer in the lungs, liver, brain, bones and elsewhere in the human body.
  7. Roln Thunder from Fredericton, Canada writes: Good Article, if only the rest of the G&M were as well presented and chocked full of facts. I was left with the feeling I actually learned something and am better off for spending the time to reading an article, for a change.

    20-30 years for the cure may seem like a long time, in particular those who are currently suffering, but I have little double that a cure or more likely cures for cancers will be found.
  8. Me D from Montreal, Canada writes: Ah yes, the modern day search for the holy grail.
  9. A skeptical MD from Canada writes: Yet another example of the G M's atrocious health reporting. THERE ARE NO MAGIC PILLS! Leave the 'magic' to alternative therapy frauds please. I remember when interferon was the next cure-all for cancer. Monoclonal antibodies too. These therapies have their uses, and Gleevec is an important new drug, but the 'wonder drug' hyped reporting shows a basic lack of understanding of how cancer treatment evolves. Progress is made incrementally, over time, through research, hard work and experience. Save the world changing sudden breakthrough drama stuff for Hollywood.
  10. zoe chendel from United States writes: I agree that a cocktail of drugs works best - but then you increase side effects as well. There is a book by Dr. Michael Murray that has helped us with loads of info on chemo, radiation, natural remedies and combining them - it lists the contraindications of natural meds with chemo. I think a complimentary approuch works well, natural and chemo and also with some of these new therapies like gleevec and avastin.
  11. Jim B from Vancouver, Canada writes: I agree with the comments that focusing the series on silver bullets and a miracle cure diminishes the quality of the series. There is a lot of reserach into finding a cure and extending the qulaity of life. Great strides have been made since I lost my mother to cancer 30 years ago. There is light in the tunnel. I would have appreciated learning more about the breadth of the research and the roles played by various organizations in bringing a therapy to market, particularly Canadian firms. For example, it would be interesting to learn about time line from the origin of a concept to receiving the final regulatory approval. I see strength in the diversity of the research but the task of bring a solution to market is daunting.
  12. concerned cancer patient from Montreal, Canada writes: I have to agree with the 'Skeptical MD'. There is no 'Magic'. CML is a very complex disease. While Gleevec is a very good drug as pointed out, it stabilizes the disease. It does not address the problem of the stem cells. This particular article doesn't mention that it cost a minimum of $35,000 dollars a year and up to $60,000 depending on the dose you are on. What is so magical about that? Its a business transaction - end of story. The Federal government should regulate the pricing of these drugs and ensure that all Canadians have access to them. As for targeted drugs like this being the future for all cancer treatment - I hope not, we cannot afford it. Being asked to put a dollar value or a price on what we can pay to stay alive, doesn't say much good about humanity. Make cures, not wars!
  13. 20 20 from Canada writes: Cancer is often used as an analogy in the the so-called War on Terror. I would suggest that the way it is currently being waged by the West, and in particular the US, is very much like conventional chemotherapy, carpet-bombing an entire country (with depleted uranium there, Patriot Acts here), damaging innocent civilians as well as the armed opposition - and very often coming close to killing the 'patient' as is the case with Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully the shift in thinking in cancer treatment will be paralleled by a shift in thinking in our political leadership. Instead of putting so many billions of dollars into Afghanistan and military spending to inflict forced shock & awe 'chemotherapy' on other countries, let's put the money, our money, into cancer research so that you and I can be spared of chemotherapy when we eventually get cancer (1 in 2.3 men and 1 in 2.6 women will get cancer in their lifetime). Let's stop being brainwashed into letting so much of our hard-earned money get funnelled to the military-industrial-complex, when that money will very clearly benefit you, me, and our loved ones if it were instead directed toward cancer research.
  14. Sonia Menezes from Mississauga, Canada writes: I'd like to agree with the skeptical MD - there's nothing magical about cancer! However, I still think this was an informative article. I just heard about Gleevec and I'm sure that some CML victims also just did. But more importantly, it's hope-inspiring. I don't have cancer but I'm in a risk category and I like to be on top of my fears.
  15. wayne Cox from Canada writes: I have had almost five normal years of life due to gleevec. I think if #9 read the whole article they would be hard pressed to call it not well balanced unless they had already prejudged it. Gleevec is not a panacea nor a cure but neither is insulin for diabetes. No one knows for sure if gleevec will work indefinitely for those of us who are responding now. The article pointed these things out. if someone can live a normal life with cancer that is progress. I spent a short time on interferon at the beginning so I know the horror of 'real' chemo. I agree with #12 that the costs of these drugs are horrendous. The highest dose of gleevec can run close to $90,000 CAN a year, not $60,000. Thankfully I have an insurance plan through where my wife works so I am one of the lucky ones. Thanks GM for the excellent series.
  16. carlo gambacorti-passerini from Montreal, Canada writes: As one of the physician scientists initially involved in the development of this drug I want to stress how important the pathway opened by Gleeves is: the targeting of a gene lesion causing cancer.

    As it can seem simple, this paradigm seldom applies to common cancers, simply because we do not know the inital genetic lesion that start them. Therefore we need to obtain this information first, and to develop drugs subsequently. Doing the opposite is pure folly. Unfortunately this is what frequently happens because of: 1. high public expectations, and: 2. desire from drug companies to zoom in quickly and develop drugs (and therefore profit) to target genes even if their roles in causing cancer is questionable.
    It is very important that the general public be educated in understanding the nature of this problem and therefore in making realistic and logical demands to their leaders.

    Other topics of the article would have certainly deserved better treatment.

    The price of the drug is a purely political problem: producing Gleevec costs less that 1 $/pill.

    It is also simplistic to say that CML is caused only by one genetic lesion while other cancers harbors several ones. Even CML accumulates dozens of other genetic alterations after acquiring the so called "Phialdephia chromosome", the chromosomal translocation that produces the Bcr/Abl protein, which is the target of Gleevec. Still responses to Gleevec are excellent.

    We have now to work on the major limitation of Gleevec, which is its failure to eradicate the disease. New more potent inhibitors could possibly make it a reality.

    Carlo Gambacorti-Passerini MD
    Professor, McGill University
    Canada Research Chair
    Dept. of Oncology
    Jewish General Hospital
    Rm E541
    3755 Cote Ste Catherine Rd
    Montreal H3T 1E2

    Tel 1.514.340-8222 ext 4205
    Fax 1.514.340-8708
  17. helen cook from United States Outlying writes: I read Anne Mcllroy's article in our local newspaper about gleevec. I have CML and have been on gleevec since September 2002. I would like to chad with others who have this disease.
  18. Rose F from moncton, Canada writes: It is always good to hear about new drugs that may help with the battle against cancer because it inspires hope; however, as great as it was to see this article talk about the after effects of chemo, it would be even greater if the description of what a cancer patient endures was expanded into discussion about the permanent side effects caused by chemo. I am a survivor, and very grateful for that, but I live in pain everyday of my life, even on the heavy duty pain medications required 3 times daily for the rest of my life, just so I can get around and my kids need their mom to be there for them. After chemo and radiation we who are survivors are never the same again. You always loose so much of who you were because you just can't function the way you once did... so whether or not this drug is good or not in opinion by everyone who has read this article, it still represents the progress made.... alternatives to chemo would really make a difference!
  19. helen cook from cyclone, United States Outlying writes: I have CML and currently taken gleevec. Yes, it is very expsensive, but thank God my co-pay is $50.00 monthly. Without insurance, I would not be able to afford it. I would like to chad with others taking this medicine. I to have very little side effects. I am a retired school teacher. email please!
  20. Andre Carrington from Bangor, United States writes: I have been using gleevec for two years now - with few side-effects and lots of benefits. I was diagnosed with a virulent form (Ph ) of ALL leukemia and the doctors put me on gleevec after failing to find me a bone marrow donor (usually the only cure for Ph ALL). I've had one relapse since I've been on gleevac and underwent 3 months of chemotherapy re-induce remission. Since then I have been clean and able to function normally. Thank you Gleevec.
  21. Hoda Wejdan from Toronto, Canada writes: My father had terminal laryngeal cancer for the past five years, and we had tried all the natural remedies but only through the g tube as he could no intake anything from the mouth for approximately a year. We tried that in combination with radiation. He became too weak from the radiation, hence preventing him from even trying chemotherapy. It is sad to find out that there are so many options out there, but some that you find out about only after it is too late. However good for the ones that may have some sort of hope left consider yourself lucky compared to others.
  22. rick martis from melbourne, United States writes: Anne Mcilroy the writer of this article please contact me

    over and over i see articles stating this or that product is not a MAGIC PILL

    I have a registered trademark and a product that is a MAGIC PILL


    please contact me to do a story


    thank you Rick Martis
    The Magic Pill Inc
    1800 MAGICPILL

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