The Cancer Research Industry

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The Cancer Research Industry

By: Simon Mitchell

Many volunteers world-wide commit themselves to raising funds for cancer research and cancer charities. Many hundreds of thousands more work in the industry as carers, or researching, prescribing, diagnosing and manufacturing drugs. Huge companies spend fortunes on cancer research. After so long and so many billions spent what exactly has cancer research revealed?

There have been regular breakthroughs in our understanding of cancer, but little progress in its treatment. Modern research into cancer began in the 1940’s and 50’s when scientists isolated substances that killed cancer cells growing in a petri dish, or leukaemia cells in laboratory mice. Early successes in chemotherapy set the pace and received much media exposure, even though they only applied to 5% of cancer treatments at most.

Serving humanity by solving its major diseases has a celebrity status, there is a lot of kudos and an air of Hollywood involved in such things. Cancer research is high profile activity and every now and then a scientific treatment is discovered that gains wide recognition, such as the HPV-16 trial, but it only applies itself to the treatment of a small percentage of cancers. Mass-media hype is part of the problem of how we see cancer. Early discoveries set up an expectation that there was a cure-all treatment, a ‘magic bullet’ that would make its discoverer famous by curing cancer across the world. The idea stems in part from aspirin, the original bullet that magically finds its way to the pain and diminishes it.

In the 1950’s and 60’s huge and expensive research projects were set up to test every known substance to see if it effected cancer cells. You might remember the discovery of the Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharansus Roseus), which revealed alkaloids (vinblastine and vincristine) that are still used in chemotherapy today. Taxol, a treatment for ovarian and breast cancer originally came from the Pacific Yew tree. A treatment for testicular cancer and small-cell lung cancer called ‘Etoposide’ was derived from the May apple. In ‘Plants Used Against Cancer’ by Jonathan Hartwell over 3,000 plants are identified from medical and folklore sources for treating cancer, about half of which have been shown to have some effect on cancer cells in a test tube.

When these plants are made into synthetic drugs, single chemicals are isolated and the rest of the plant is usually thrown away. The medicinally active molecules are extracted from the plant and modified until they are chemically unique. Then the compound is patented, given a brand name and tested.

In the first phase it will generally be tested on animals, the second phase will decide dosage levels and in phase 3 it is tested on people. By the time it is approved by the Federal Drugs Authority (in U.S.A.) or the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency (M.H.R.A.) in Britain, the development costs for a new drug can reach five hundred million dollars, which eventually has to be recouped from the consumer.

In addition to ‘treatment directed’ research such as finding chemicals that effect cancer cells, basic research continues apace, into differences between normal and cancerous cells. In the last 30 years this research has revealed much about our nature, but still no cure. Below are some current strands of scientific research into cancer.

antibody-guided therapy: this is the original ‘magic bullet’. Cancer researchers use monoclonal antibodies to carry poisons directly to the cancer cells without harming others.

chronobiology: much of what happens in our bodies is governed by cycles, from the female monthly cycle to the cycles of brainwaves. Human health depends on interacting cycles geared to acts of perception, breathing, reproduction and renewal. Chronobiology analyses these cycles in relation to different times, such as day and night. Hormones, including stress and growth hormones, have their own cycles. For example they may be at their highest activity in the morning and quieter at night. Cancer cells seem to no longer obey the same cycle rates as normal cells.

Anti-telomerase: one part of a cell, called the telomerase, governs the life cycle of a cell and how many times it may multiply. Some cancer cells escape this control and can increase the number of times they divide, becoming ‘immortal’. Researchers hope to gain control over cancer cells by stopping the action of telomerase.

Anti-angiogenesis: secondary tumours (metastasis) can persuade the cells around them to grow new blood vessels to feed the tumours, supplying oxygen and nutrients for the growing cancer. This process is called angiogenesis and research here is finding ways to stop the signals to normal cells that start the process.

Anti-adhesion molecules: Cancer cells form into clumps, unlike those in a petri dish which form into a flatter arrangement. When there are clumps of cells they seem to possess a quality that resists treatment. This strand of research looks at ways that can stop the cells clumping together, by dissolving the clumps for more effective treatment.

Anti-oncogene products: specific portions of D.N.A., called oncogenes, that have an important role in promoting cancer growth. Drugs that interfere with the production of oncogenes may be useful for the future treatment of cancer.

Gene therapy: research into the use of tumour suppressant genes is highlighted in the British National Cancer Plan as an important element. Essentially, bits of DNA are inserted to replace missing or damaged genes, possibly preventing the development of cancer in someone who might be ‘high risk’.

Vaccines: very quietly the search for a general cure for cancer is being put aside in preference to finding a vaccine. The whole idea of a cure or treatment that is ‘the same for everybody’ breaks down in the case of the specific, chaotic conditions that cause cancer in an individual person. After billions spent on research for the holy grail of a cancer cure, the search is now on to find a vaccine.

At a recent cancer immunology conference in the US top immunologists from 21 nations attended lectures on the latest immunology topics such as:

  • cancer immunosurveillance

  • immunoediting

  • cancer antigen discovery

  • monitoring and analysing the immunological response to human cancer

  • cancer vaccine development

The Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC) was launched to much excitement. It is a unique research program that should improve how cancer vaccines are developed, based on a collaboration of six New York medical centres and one in Minnesota. The aim of their research is to find out how to effectively immunise against cancer using a vaccine, using ‘action research’.

Vaccines made from donor blood are proving to work for some cancers. Experiments with bone marrow transplants show there are about 40,000 different tissue types making it hard to find a match. Usually a perfect match can only be found within the patient’s direct family. Incorrect matches can create a host of secondary dis-eases. Scientist are finding ways to train Killer T cells taken either from the host or a donor, to more effectively attack cancer cells. They have noticed that donor Killer T cells that are already ‘primed’ for a particular cancer (e.g. the donor body cells ‘remember’ the disease) can be highly effective. It may take many years to prove validity, reliability, safety and efficacy for this treatment. Harvesting the natural immunity of our own, or donor cells with the aid of genetic engineering may well become a big player against modern immune attacking dis-eases.

Increased screening: this type of research looks at genetically identifying individuals who might be at high risk of certain types of cancer and is partly a preparation for possible vaccines. Genetic counselling is set to become a 21st century contributor to health care based on prevention of disease as much as cure.

Combinations: research from West Germany (Grossart-Maticek) argues that there is no single cause for cancer, similar to the pattern in most chronic illness. It shows there are environmental, psychological and spiritual dimensions to disease. The implication is that treatment should be on the same levels, and that no single treatment is likely to be effective because there is no single cause. This observation links with the position of many Holistic practitioners who often have a wider view of health than orthodox medical practitioners.

Dr. Robert Buckman is an experienced cancer researcher, and author of the informative book: ‘What You Really Need to Know About Cancer’. He summarises what he sees as the present position of scientific cancer research:

"We now have a very large number of ways of looking at cancer cells in the laboratory. We have thousands of different types of cancer cells growing in dishes, many of which can be grown and then cured in laboratory bred mice. We also have thousands of different ways of looking at and testing those cells. We can look at the cells’ growth, their abilities to produce different substances, their sensitivity to some chemotherapy drugs and their resistance to others, the way they respond to growth factors, their genetic material including oncogenes and substances controlled by oncogenes, their ability to effect other cells (of the immune system, for example), their ability to damage membranes and invade, their structure under the electron microscope and whether or not the cell surface has any of hundreds of different marker molecules on it. These are just a few examples of what can be done nowadays: the complete list of ways in which cancer cells can be tested would probably be longer than this entire book. But here is the snag: although this accumulation of experience is wonderful and commendable, cancer in human beings is far more complicated then any laboratory system can ever be (at least in the light of current knowledge)".

About The Author

Simon Mitchell

This is an extract from 'Don't Get Cancer'a new ebook available only at:'tget1.html


Lovely x3 04.02.2010. 02:31

How much money is spent on cancer research in the United States annually? How much money is spent on cancer research in the United States annually?

Lovely x3

Admin 04.02.2010. 02:31

Hi Feng. The National Cancer Institute is a part of the federal government. They have been receiving $4.8 BILLION ($4,800,000,000.00) per year for research from tax payers (as part of the federal budget). See the link below.

This number does not include private funding and charitable donations to private cancer research charities. Additional research dollars may be spent by biomedical research companies and/or the pharmaceutical industry.

Best wishes and good luck.


Chris S. 23.07.2007. 02:31

How many people are employed in the cancer industry? I wonder, what is the sum total of people employed in cancer research, treatment, and related not for profits (Gilda's Club, etc.) that deal with cancer patients.
My interest has to do with the thought that SO many people would be out of work IF a cure for cancer would be developed.

Chris S.

Admin 23.07.2007. 02:31

Thousands if not millions. If your lookin for a job related thing,i'm sure jobs are in demand.

If just for facts try


SayWhat? 01.10.2007. 17:58

Is Cancer research funded mostly by charitable giving or mostly by the health industry? if neither, then who is the primary funder of cancer research?


Admin 01.10.2007. 17:58

In the US the National Cancer Institute through government funding sponsors cancer research. The research is publically funded:

NCI: Research Funding

There are over 200 different types of cancer and not all cancers are treated equally as far as funding goes.


My Business Plan 20.03.2010. 23:33

Is there anything in the health care bill that funnels money into finding a cure for cancer? or will Americans be forced to continue suffering through chemo therapy. If the government poured money into cancer research the way they did in putting a man on the moon, wouldn't that do more for HEALTH care than forcing insurance companies to pay for your kids snotty nose?

My Business Plan

Admin 20.03.2010. 23:33

No, since this is basically about health insurance reform.

It started out as a bill that could enable that kind of research to happen (universal health care), but no longer.

The National Cancer Institute receives $4.8 billion annually. Other Federal Government agencies, including other NIH Institutes and Centers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense, fund cancer research. In addition, state and local governments, voluntary organizations, private institutions, and industry also spend substantial amounts of money on cancer-related research.

This, of course, begs the question of why don't we yet have a cure, or at least a more humane method of treatment? I don't have the answer.


johma513 27.07.2009. 15:43

What are the career prospects in oncology? Has anyone ever worked as or have any knowledge of a careers as a cancer research biologist? Also can anyone tell me about the Medical doctor approach and get a fellowship in hematology/oncology? I think that I either want to go through medical school and have a career as an oncologist or get a PhD in Oncology and do research. Any information is appreciated.


Admin 27.07.2009. 15:43

Well it is definitely a "growth industry". You would be making money like crazy from my husband and me.
Sorry, I know nothing about getting into the field. Whether you want to go into research or medicine depends more on how much you like dealing directly with people.


ANTHONY M 24.02.2008. 12:58

When did cancer research begin? How much money, approximately, has been spent? It has to be in the billions. I know we have come a long way in fighting cancer, but why is it so difficult to cure? Is it because of the many forms of cancer, or is cancer just cancer?


Admin 24.02.2008. 12:58

In my opinion, the reason why we have not found a cure for cancer is that the way we do research on cancer has been flawed. We already know that cancer is caused by mutations acquired through carcinogens over a period of time and these mutations affect the expression or modify the proteins that are responsible in stopping or preventing uncontrolled cell-growth. However, there are many reasons/causes as to why there is such a phenomena, ie different genes acquire the mutations in different cancer patients, therefore each cancer patient is unique as well as similar. To give you a good example, think of each cancer patient as an aviation disaster, ie a plane crash. There can be many reasons why a plane crash. Lack of fuel, structural damage, human error, etc but they all lead to the same conclusion, ie a horrible crash with people dying. Now, how come the aviation industry can learn so much from every crash and design better planes and better safety measures to prevent future accidents from the same cause while in cancer, there is nothing of that sort? That is because, the airlines always conduct a through investigation to EVERY plane crash but do we do that for EVERY cancer patient? We don't even do a DNA analysis of each cancer patient to determine what are the genes that has mutations that is causing the cancer but feed patient chemotherapeutic drugs "hoping" that it will kill off the cancer cells. I believe if more directed effort (not just puting more money) is made in cancer research, ie treat every incidence of cancer like an air-crash disaster, we will be able to cure cancer within 5-10 years.


Aaron 30.10.2010. 18:39

Shouldn't products that benefit cancer research at least be healthy? The grocery stores are full of pink packaged products proceeds from which benefit cancer research but alot of the products are chock full of cancer causing ingredients. Can you expect co's like that to contribute to cancer research?


Admin 30.10.2010. 18:39

Kreep, Your statement sounds simple and good, BUT the answer is complex, not simple. Change the word "healthy" to "beneficial," and the answer is obviously TRUE. While many "products" are controlled and their effects monitored by various government organization, such as the Food & Drug Administration, many are not yet. Cancer products are usually developed by private pharmaceutical worldwide companies which primarily exist to make money for their investors while helping treat patients. Government money is often used in developmental stages. Several research products may cure or control the spread of cancer while, unfortunately, doing harm to some body tissues nearby. It's a matter of balancing benefits against ill-effects, hoping that the benefits will make it worthwhile for the informed patient to make his/her treatment decisions. While you're right about many bad or not-yet-evaluated products on store shelves, the reason is usually that they are not yet regulated by any government agency for lack of funding or emphasis. It can change if the people insist on more protection and surveillance. Go for it!!! Don't trust industry looking for profits. Remember what tobacco has done and still does.


trbl 10.04.2012. 15:08

What can be done to help men attain equality? Women benefit from women-only scholarships. Women are a majority on college campuses, and therefore earn more degrees than men. Government assistance is available specifically for women entrepreneurs. Affirmative action programs legally favor women over men. As a result of these pro-women policies, young women out-earn their male peers. For years, women have controlled the manner in which a family's money is spent, accounting for 85% of all consumer purchases; women control the largest percentage of personal wealth, and the numbers are expected to increase.

Meanwhile, men account for the vast majority of workplace injuries and fatalities due to the fact that men are more likely to work in hazardous occupations. Despite this fact and the fact that men have a shorter life expectancy, the government focuses its attention on women's health with offices and agencies like White House Council on Women and Girls; Women in Development, USAID; WIC, USDA; Women's Bureau, US Dept of Labor; The Office of Women?s Health, FDA; Office of Research on Women?s Health, National Institutes of Health (NIH); and The Office on Women?s Health, Office of Public Health and Science, Office of the Secretary. No similar federal agencies exist for men's health. Roughly twice the federal funds are spent on breast cancer research as are spent on prostate cancer research.


Admin 10.04.2012. 15:08

Let's not forget alimony, women get child custody >75% of the time, female statutory rapists rarely do the same amount of time as a male in the same situation, etc.

It's gone beyond equality into the opposite direction in many cases.

You do realize that without men, there would be no women too don't you? It takes one of each... Or haven't you gotten to that part of sex ed?

@Forget War Buy More
Of course they pay more, there's more risk. That's how insurance works. It's a gamble on the insurance company's side of things and they are the house. They have to come out ahead or they don't make money and then there's no insurance industry.

Do you feel the same way about men being charged more for auto insurance?


Phineas Gage 26.04.2013. 20:10

How does a 5K walk for Breast Cancer work? I keep hearing about these events, like a 5K walk for breast cancer. I don't understand how that works. How does walking a 5K help anyone with breast cancer? It has nothing to do with "raising awareness". I really doubt there are ignorant "unaware" women out there who will suddenly decide to get breast cancer screenings because they saw someone walk 5K with a pink ribbon.

Someone explained it to me like this once: "A company sponsors you. You walk 5K, and they donate X dollars to some breast-cancer charity or cancer research or something."

That's great, but why bother with the 5K walk? Why not just donate the money regardless of who walks or how far they walk? It seems totally irrelevant to associate walking with donating to cancer research.

It's as arbitrary as "swimming for leukemia" or "hiking for Alzheimer's" If you swim 500 meters and hike up a mountain, Toyota will donate a bunch of money to some charity. Hey, here's an idea: How about Toyota donate the money regardless of how far I swim, hike, walk, jog, or whatever?

Why is their donating contingent on my physical performance? If some wealthy organization wants to help people by donating to various causes, that's great but why do they care about me walking 5K? Why not just give money to whatever cause they support, regardless of who walks 5K?

Phineas Gage

Admin 26.04.2013. 20:10

I'm with you!! But it gives people a false sense of accomplishment when they have to exert themselves to "raise money".

Anybody who is not "aware" of breast cancer has been living on the moon for the past few decades. But the breast cancer business is booming because of the pink junk it sells to promote said awareness, and the income that lots of private companies make, a tiny portion of which actually goes to research.....I think.

Women should take responsibility for doing their own research instead of trusting the medical industry. They're soaking us for dangerous, expensive drugs, when alternative medicine would be much safer and more effective.


? ? ? ? 05.10.2007. 01:51

What is your most favourite portion of the 6 o'clock television news? If you watch t.v. news, what is your most favourite portion or what do you consider most important of the 6 o'clock news (or whatever time you watch your news)?

A) - Current events and live coverages (locally & internationally)
B) - Health & Medicine (i.e. latest in cancer research, drug-related research, hospital matters, etc.)
C) - Entertainment & Fashion (i.e. movies, music, t.v. show reviews, celebrity, etc.)
D) - Politics and government proceedings (this would include socio-political debates as well).
E) - Social debates (where viewers can poll-in or call to provide their opinions on a news topic).
F) - Finance and Marketing (i.e. stocks)
G) - Electronics & Gadgets (video-game reviews, games, etc.)
H) - Fitness & Nutrition (this does NOT incorporate the health and medicine field. Think yoga & the food industry.)
I) - Traffic reports
J) - Weather reports
K) - other?

You can pick more than one...

? ? ? ?

Admin 05.10.2007. 01:51

A, D, and J. My local news does not have social debates, but that sounds like it would be very interesting.


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