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Ethical Concerns for Global Cancer Research

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Cancer research seeks to improve quality of life and add new and better modalities for treatment to increase survival.  Accompanying such research, however, should be specific ethical considerations as cancer patients may be rendered vulnerable by their particular diagnosis.  Chief among these are possible conflicts of interest, especially when the researcher is the attending doctor for the cancer patient, achieving informed consent and research involving children with cancer. As researchers in lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) often lack the financial and sometimes technical resources to conduct much cancer research, they often must collaborate with researchers and sponsors from the richer countries in the global north.   Many ethical issues may arise in these collaborations, however, as LMICs have relatively more illiterate and historically more disempowered people, with a different ethical framework for healthcare decision-making. The new paradigm for anticancer drug development involves the development of agents that specifically target a critical pathway within cancer cells. However, research with molecularly targeted agents includes the ethical consideration of more than minimal risk, and so while competent adults may volunteer for such research studies, it is ethically debated whether parents may give permission for their children to participate in them. Another ethical requirement to be met in cancer research is that of the dissemination of the findings, whether positive or negative.  To do otherwise is to waste the human and financial resources that went into the research endeavour, as well as commit a ‘moral wrong’ to the participants who sacrificed for the research.

30 Sep, 2018
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e-Published: 26 Feb, 2019


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