Thursday, March 24, 2011

Health care the lab

    Yes, we are looking at the one year anniversary of the abomination we lovingly call Obamacare....
Let us hope we do not see a second anniversary!!!!! 

Countless articles will be written today about the one year anniversary of the passage of national health reform.
Here, a simple plea: Whatever the Congressional machinations over the coming years to tweak or overhaul, denigrate or extol the law, let lawmakers be guided by an understanding of the crucial role innovation must play in both improving health care quality, and in reducing costs.
Massachusetts is blessed by an overabundance of such innovation, a fact underscored by two advances announced this week by local research institutions.
First of all, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, which was founded by Harvard University and MIT but is now independent, announced they have sequenced the multiple myeloma genome. Basically they now have a genetic map of these awful tumors that are responsible for 20,000 new cases of this hard-to-treat blood cancer each year. Five-year survival rates hover around 40 percent, and companies pursuing cures have had a steep uphill battle. Last year, Cambridge-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which is owned by UK-based GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), suspended its Phase 2 trial for a potential multiple myeloma treatment because several patients in the trial developed kidney failure. A better understanding of the make-up of these tumors could help companies design more effective clinical trials, saving time, money, and most importantly lives.
Secondly, Massachusetts General Hospital just announced an analysis of lung cancer tumors that shows how they evolve to evade treatments over time. Non-small-cell-lung-cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Here too, searching for cures has been a daunting task. For instance, Newton-based Novelos Therapeutics (OTCBB: NVLT.OB), faced a blow last year when a Phase 3 trial failed to show that its drug candidate worked better than a treatment already on the market. This disease is so tough to treat that clinical trial success is measured in extra weeks – not months or years – of survival. Getting a handle of how tumors adapt to treatments over time could have a tremendous positive impact on researchers’ ability to design therapeutics that are smarter than the tumors.



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