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Research Involving Terminal Cancer Patients Causes Controversy

A clinical trial that exposed 49 terminal cancer patients to high doses of PFOA has received extreme backlash from the medical research community.

PFOA is the compound used to make Teflon, firefighting foam, and many other products. CXR Biosciences conducted the clinical trial, and the associated research study was funded by the 3M company and published in February 2018. 

The study’s authors initially aimed to assess the chemotherapeutic potential of PFOA, but the paper contains little mention of how the chemical affected patients’ cancers. Instead, it focuses on their cholesterol levels, which appeared to decrease slightly over a six-week trial period.

Several research institutions have expressed reservations about relying on a study with such a small sample size, restrictive inclusion criteria for participants, and the use of late-stage cancer patients whose metabolic function is not likely comparable to the general population.

“The paper raises lots of ethical questions,” said Dr. Robert Klitzman, Academic Director of the Master of Science in Bioethics program. 

Dr. Klitzman noted that the authors did not present their cholesterol findings in “clinically meaningful terms” and raised questions about what the terminally ill patients were told when asked to participate in the study.


Read the full story at The Intercept and learn more about the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.