Contrary to what many people think, drug companies are composed of people just like you and me who have the same hopes and dreams and fears that everyone does. The word “cancer” sends chills down their spines just like it does to you and me. Most people are touched by cancer in some way, if not personally, through a friend or a loved one. The people who work in the cancer field at drug companies are no different in this respect, whether they be in research, clinical, marketing or sales.

In my experience, patients have often wanted to meet the company representatives, shake their hands and thank them for what they have done for them or their friends and relatives. Regretfully, due to FDA rules and regulations, patients in a trial and drug companies are very limited in how much contact they may have, at least from a marketing perspective. That said, I have been privileged to meet quite a few patients in the cancer clinics over the last 6 years and have often followed their subsequent progress through the doctors. Some of those patients were at deaths door, planning their funeral or deciding how to make the most of their last few months. Their stories were very real, heart rending and courageous; ordinary people doing extraordinary things with a genuine desire to learn, get better and share their experiences.

In the program I was involved with, many of those same patients not only recovered and survived, but are now essentially in chronic remission or ‘cure’ and some of them I still keep in touch with as they go about re-living normal lives again. Such is the miracle of modern science and medicine.

Yes, we live in a rough, tough and cynical world, but many of the drug company workers are ordinary people like the rest of us who sincerely care about fighting cancer, relieving human suffering and quite simply, helping patients get better. You can’t save everyone, but you can at least do the utmost possible in the time you have with the resources, technology and information available.

{Update: I was delighted to hear from a principal investigator recently that at least 4 or 5 patients are still alive from a trial of a phase I pipeline compound I was involved in 10 years ago. Most had at best, 2 years to live, so to hear that they are goinge strong was very heartwarming. That’s what you live for – the opportunity to make a real difference to patients lives.}