Cures Waiting in the Cold: Revisiting Patient Access To Untested Drugs

Today we discussed a topic which reminded me of an article I read the other night. The article discusses a promising cure for Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs) that is presently kept in refrigerated storage in a laboratory in Sweden. Researchers have found a virus which is able to attack and kill mutated cells of this rare cancer in laboratory tests. As of the time of this post, it has not been tested in a human setting. A scientist associated with the research warns that results obtained in a laboratory frequently do not lead to the same results in a human.

Steve Jobs was killed by a NET of the pancreas.

Evidently, there is a sizable group of individuals with this particular cancer who are desperate to have access to the virus, but due to the rarity of the tumor, funding for clinical trials is short. Consequently, there has been little ongoing research into putting this virus to use curing NETs. The workers at the research facility would face jail time if they supplied the terminally ill patients with the virus, which serves as a very real example of what was discussed in class today. For those suffering from an NET that has been unresponsive to other treatment vectors, this virus could be the last hope.

While there are many policy reasons for not allowing untested treatments to be used on patients, those reasons are likely unconvincing to this group of patients with NETs, who have little chance of survival. On the other hand, whether or not the virus would truly be able to cure the NETs remains to be seen; any number of maladies could potentially accompany use of the virus in humans as well.


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