The Right to Get Cured of Brain Cancer

Reports are coming out that a brain cancer vaccine, developed by Avant Immunotherapeutics and licensed by Pfizer, more than doubled the survival time of people with the most common and deadly type of brain tumor (33 months from 14 months on average). The drug works by engaging the patient's immune system to attack the cancer cells, as opposed to most brain cancer medications, which target the brain directly.

There is speculation that Ted Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last month, and who is undergoing brain surgery today, may be a candidate for the drug, which is still considered experimental.

As I discussed several months ago, in a post entitled "The Right to Try", current precedent denies us the right to have access to experimental, potentially life-saving medications. For example, not just anyone can be a part of clinical trial, and even if you are, the testing may require that you receive a placebo, and therefore obtain no benefit from the testing. Given this, I find it strange that they're already talking about letting Ted Kennedy have access to it, simply because he's a senator. I'm not a doctor, but I would think that there would be candidates in line ahead of him who are much younger with better overall health prospects.

And if he becomes a candidate, will they be able to keep him from getting the placebo? Can they bend the rules like that? Perhaps the best thing that could happen (for the public at large) would be for them to not allow him to have access to the drug. Of course, I think Kennedy should be able to take the drug, but maybe public outrage over a denial of access to the drug (and Kennedy's considerable political power) will have the impetus to overturn Abigail Alliance v. Eschenbach, the D.C. Circuit case that prevents us all from having the opportunity to risk our lives to save our lives.