|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Hi Stacie, Sorry for the delay. You've posed a really interesting question! There are many different kinds of plants which are used to treat cancer. The could be either terrestrial or aquatic. Basically what has happened, in the past and now still is that researchers, either in a university or at a company, take extracts from all kinds of plants and put them on cancer cells, and look if any of the extracts either stop the cancer cells from growing or kill them altogether. Once a candidate drug has been found it will then be tried to cure cancer in lab animals, like mice. Though mice are quite different looking from humans, some of their cellular biology is similar to humans, so trying out drugs in mice to see if they are toxic is a good thing. Sometimes these drugs work effectively in mice. If that's the case, they will be tried in humans....in Phase I,II, and III clinical trials. Basically in answer to your questions, many different kinds of plants (and probably animals too) have been used to try to treat cancer. Here are some websites that I have found useful for specific plants used to treat cancer. http://herbsforhealth.miningco.com/health/herbsforhealth/cs/cancerherbs/ index.htm http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/botany/ http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancerinfo/index.html The rest of your questions are more political in nature. Here's what I know about them. A lot of cancer research is funded by the US government, through grants to university researchers. There are also foundations which fund cancer research, like the American Cancer Society or the American Association for Cancer Resarch, as well as others. Still other cancer research if funded by biotech companies like Amgen or Genentech and MANY others. As for who should bear the cost for this research, that's a tough question. It takes A LOT of money and time to go from isolating a compound with possible anti-cancer properties all the way to an effective cancer treatment. It often takes close to 10 years of time, which translates into a lot of money for salaries for the researchers, research supplies, and figuring out how to manufacture the drug. This is one reason why (many) drugs are so expensive. I think right now we're doing a pretty OK job of splitting up the costs of research....a lot of very basic research is done at the university level--training of biologists, and good research. However, most universities don't have the resources to figure out how to scale up production of a drug. This is where a lot of the work in companies comes in. Additionally, companies often have better resources to try lots of different compounds. Sometimes if they find a potential compound they will send it to university researchers (along with money) to figure out how the drug works. So as for who should pay for it, I don't really know the actual answer. I guess i think it should be a mix of people, but this is only my opinion. Please let me know if you have any more questions, or if I can clarify anything. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck! -Sarah Tegen
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