LETTING THE CONTROL GROUP SUFFER. Amy Harmon writes wonderful and moving articles about the frontiers of cancer research. The New York Times had a heartbreaking and deeply troubling article by her on its front page this Sunday (September 19). It’s about two cousins in their early 20’s who each had a deadly form of melanoma (skin cancer). They both enrolled in a clinical test of a promising new drug. One got the new drug and is still alive after nine months. The other was in the control group and is dead. What is horrifying is that the control group was required to take what Amy Harmon describes as “the chemotherapy drug that has been the notoriously ineffective recourse in treating melanoma for 30 years.” The horror is that no new information could have been developed by administering a 30 year old drug to the control group. After 30 years, there is a wealth of information about that drug. The doctors knew how long a control group would survive on the old therapy. Giving the new drug to all the patients would have given twice as much information.

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