- 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
- 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.