Baltimore, MD: Last week, cancer researchers at Kennedy Krieger Institute announced the results of a trial for a new course of treatment that may benefit a number of types of cancer.
The treatment involves a series of pharmaceutical therapies that are so complicated and arcane that they must be administered by a trained physician or at least a well-caffeinated medical student.
Results indicate an almost 75% reduction in tumor size. The most exciting finding, according to researchers, is that this reduction is maintained for the exact amount of time it takes to write up and get approval for a follow-up study.
“This is revolutionary,” said Dr. Jim McClane, principal investigator on the project. “Before, we could never be sure if we’d get approval in time to study our treatment of the cancer when it came back. So we’d end up treating all these patients without being able to get any data. Cancer’s a tricky disease that way.”
Beyond just making recruitment easier, the new treatment allows researchers to feed a steady stream of data to sponsors of the studies. The results are exactly promising enough to make sponsors fund follow-up studies, which then produce more data. This continues in a virtually limitless cycle.
“But it’s not just about money,” said Dr. McClane. “It’s about treating patients. Again and again. With the same thing. It’s about science.”
The results do not come as good news for everyone. Ethics and institutional review boards all over the country have begun to register complaints.
“Do you have any idea how much paperwork this means?” stated Cindy McIntre, chairwoman of the ethics board at the NIH. “These results are so significant that it’s impossible to reject any studies based on them. That means every project is going to be approved. Either we’ll have to require more significant results or I’ll have to start coming in five days a week and working until five PM. Five PM!”
Others have taken up the demand for raising the standard of significance. This has caused cancer researches to bite back.
In an editorial article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the renowned cancer researcher David McDennis tore into those championing higher standards.
“Scientists have been working with the current standards for decades,” wrote Dr. McDennis. “Requiring more from them would just place yet another burden on research. You can’t rush science. And we only have so many RAs.”