Fools on the Hill

  • by: |
  • 12/27/2007
Consider the story of Eric Lester, an oncologist in St. Joseph, Michigan, who was trying to find a way save the lives of his patients with advanced lung cancer. Instead of waiting for someone else to develop diagnostic tools, Lester developed his own test to see what kind of genetic factors were causing the cancer to grow. It turned out that epidermal growth factor receptor was the culprit and that a drug called Tarceva, designed to shut off that receptor, would work.

Instead of waiting to use Tarceva when all else was failing, he decided to use it as part of a tailor-made drug cocktail for his patient based on the information from the diagnostic he developed while staying within the bounds of the FDA. The patient fared better than most of the patients Lester sees.

It’s not a cure, but the results of Lester’s experiment—and others like it—are being shared with academic researchers and drug companies to accelerate the development of cancer drugs tailored to variations of growth factors causing lung cancer. Patients like Lester’s would receive tests that look for biomarkers—biochemical indicators of a disease—to see which drug would work best with fewest side effects. Such collaboration could bring about a new generation of cancer-killing treatments in years.

For more check out the Journal of Life Sciences at:

And that will explain the title.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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