Pharmaceutical Industry
Hardly Interested
In Cancer - Why?
By Catherine Rudolph
Tacoma Reporter

ATLANTA (AFP) - Only nine percent of clinical trials held by the pharmaceutical industry focus on new drugs to fight cancer, compared to 25 percent for cardiovascular disease and 17 percent for neurological problems, according to a US specialist group Saturday.
Clinical trials evaluate new medications or new drug combinations to improve on current treatments. Those participating in the trials are usually divided into groups receiving standard treatment and those receving potentially new treatments.
Pharmaceutical research has concentrated on prostate cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, breast and lung cancers.
"We need the clinical trials to know what works and what does not work," explained Allan Lichter, head of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
According to the group's survey, 80 percent of 7,000 cancer patients questioned had taken part in clinical trials in the past two years.
The cost of enrolling patients in this type of study, including follow up observations, is about 2,000 dollars each.
The pharmaceutical industry takes these costs into account, and usually defrays the costs for doctors whose patients participate in the trials.
But the National Cancer Institute, the largest organizer of clinical tests, only reimburses 750 dollars per patient -- a situation which could deter work with public research, according to oncologists meeting here.
Currently 40,000-45,000 cancer patients are enrolled in clinical trials in the United States. Of these, 20,000 are involved in research financed by the National Cancer Institute, 13,000 are in industry-led trials, and 7,000-12,000 are involved in trials launched by cancer centers.
The total equals between three to five percent of those diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States.
According to Lichter, some 20 percent could participate in clinical trials, but only half are invited to do so, and less than half of that are actively enrolled.
"The encouraging news is that most oncologists view clinical research as fundamental to their jobs, despite significant disencentives to participate," Lichter said.
"The bad news is that lack of trained personnel, inadequate funding, increased pressure to do reimbursable work and the lack of dedicated research time serve as a powerful deterrent to conducting such research," he added.