Monday, January 9, 2017

MD Anderson Sells Clinical Trials as Lifesaving Options

MD Anderson Sells Clinical Trials as Lifesaving Options

In a past series of blog posts on this site we’ve focused in on MD Anderson’s aggressive framing of  both cancer and clinical trials.

Their take-no-prisoners, in-your-face declaration that cancer is on the run and they’re hell bent to make cancer history.” 

Back in 2015 the Psychologist, Mark Hochhauser, an expert on ethics and patient understanding of consent information, pointed out that MD Anderson was also presenting clinical trials in a way that equated
Clinical trials = treatment

“[This] implies that research is just another form of treatment, a perspective that creates problems for bioethicists and researchers who are concerned about “therapeutic misconceptions” that may mislead prospective subjects. Clinical trial research and medical treatment are not the same.”

Fast forward to last week (Jan 4 2017), in a letter to the NYT, the head of MD Anderson, Ronald A. DePinho responding to a feature article about low participation of minorities in clinical trials, called such trials “lifesaving options”.

Hochhauser wrote to me,  
“This is therapeutic misconception of the worst kind. My understanding is that most oncology drugs do not save lives, but extend the cancer patient's lifespan by a few months--often at great cost. “ 

What we should all be aware of is that these  “super claims” about clinical trials is appearing simultaneously with the aggressive promoting of new cancer drugs such as Opdivo  -

“Opdivo is the first and only immune-therapy, FDA approved, based on  demonstrating longer life for [these] patients.”

Where does that leave the cancer patient, any patient?

What percentage of clinical trials result in positive outcomes for patients?

What happens when they don't?
What are we talking about when a drug claims to extend life?

Are we really ready to prey on some of the sickest patients with hype and half truths?  Is that what they deserve?  Is that what we call "scientific progress"? 

Dr. Mark Hochhauser can be contacted at