19 January 2007

A Pledge to the World

It's called dichloroacetate, or DCA for short. It repairs the damage cancer cells do to their own mitochondria, which means that cancer cells can get their "engines" back on-line for other treatments to be effective. Cancer cells--those with inactive mitochondria--are essentially like zombies: there's no easy way to hurt them. With DCA, you can make them vulnerable and kill them off.

This isn't theory. Researchers at the University of Alberta have run extensive trials on animals and human tissue tumors and the results are not short of spectacular. The treatment is not only effective, it attacks almost all types of cancer cells, attacks only cancer cells (healthy cells don't need their mitochondria reactivated, so DCA leaves them intact) and a DCA treatment would be relatively easy to implement, inexpensive and significantly reduce the damage done by chemo- and radiotherapy.

So what's the catch? Dichloroacetate is not patentable: It's like salycilic acid, better known as aspirin. It's become a generic compound, used often to treat genetically-induced metabolic disorders in children. Because it cannot be patented, pharmaceutical companies will not invest the money to develop DCA in clinical trials. Without that development, the potential breakthrough in defeating cancer will remain experimental. Unless there's a megaprofit down the line, no drug company will do the work.

How much money are We talking about? From $400 to $600 million. Not exactly chump change, but compared to drug company profits, it's not even a mild stretch. The Alberta researchers are hoping for universities and other private entities to step forward and help finance the development, made prohibitively expensive by the numerous and laberynthian hoops the Food and Drug Administration throws at drug development. Doing it in Europe is an option, but there'd still be the hurdle of FDA approval for treatment in the U.S.

However, any disjointed effort would slow down the clinical trials and thus delay the development of the DCA tumor treatment, while cancer rages on. If you don't think this is important, then you don't have a loved one battling cancer.

So why am I bringing this up in The Jenius? Stop. Think about it. Pull the elements together...Clinical trials, drug development, FDA procedures, scientists, human test subjects, controlled conditions, U.S.-based to speed up approval, a central "organizing" entity, but above all, a funding entity that states unequivocally: We will do this and make the treatment available without regard to profit.

Here's where I'm going with this: Puerto Rico should pledge to sponsor, with monies and support resources, the clinical trials and development of DCA as a cancer treatment.

Puerto Rico has enough basic resources, both human and infrastructure, to begin organizing clinical trials. There's more than enough personnel for the millions of hours needed and whatever specialized knowledge is needed can be brought in. The government and private sector can pledge to put up $600 million over a 5-year period to make this happen.

But beyond those and other minor physical details (yes, We have more than $600 million floating around), the most significant factor in doing the DCA clinical trial is that it will unite Puerto Rico in a visible, measurable and globally-significant manner.

"We shall place, before the end of the decade, a man on the moon and bring him back safely." When President John Kennedy launched that challenge in 1960, the goal was beyond imagining: We had barely covered 100 miles of an almost 600,000 mile round trip into the pure unknown. The U.S. could and did pull that off. Puerto Rico can and should pull off the DCA clinical trial for development of a cancer treatment.

Think of the benefits. From medical "magic bullet" to "world center stage," Puerto Rico's pledge and activity in this project would set an example, one that would continue to shine if the treatment is then donated to the world as Puerto Rico's offering to develop a better world.

Would this unite Us? I believe so. Will there be detractors? Of course, but there are always naysayers both bright and dull against every idea. More importantly: Is it doable? Can Puerto Rico take a deep breath, stand up and get the job done? I believe it can. I believe it must.

The possible ramifications of this idea, of this pledge to the world, are too numerous to explore here, but I will mention one: Have you ever heard of a nation pledging its resources to help all of humanity? How would that nation be perceived by the rest of the globe's denizens? And finally, how would that nation feel about itself, during and after this pledge?

Puerto Rico should do this. No, more than that: We must.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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