No Cure For Cancer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

When a drug company's new molecule turns out to be a killer in a series of hush-hush unethical trials in the Chinese Pacific, a data manager spots a pattern his boss does not...

“Are you insane Stephenson? You do realise that this drug kills people?” said DeRoy.

“Of course I do, it was you who put me in charge of the autopsy data mining the Phase 1 and Pre-Phase studies.” I said smoothly. He was going take all his anger and frustration out on me but I knew he would finally see the merits of signing the whole beta-globulin project over to me which would, as he saw it, be avoiding all the blame.

“And did you find out, in the course of your investigations, that none of the test subjects, in fact, died?” DeRoy said smugly turning to block my path in the corridor. “Don't tell me, some of the perfectly healthy test subjects that died screaming in agony, didn't actually die but instead displayed physiological signs consistent with chemo-palliative care for phase four cancer patients?”

“No, the subjects who died didn't have a chance, but the toxicology of beta-globulin had nothing to do with designed active site. I believe beta-globulin can be saved.”

“Ha, even if it could we would have to publish the results of this study and explain Antigem's policy of running accelerated drug development trials through shell companies in the Chinese colonies so we can cover up any unpopular results. I don't think Cambell is going to like that, do you?” Without waiting for my reply DeRoy spun around and stalked off up the corridor. I stood my ground, we were nearly at the bosses office it was now or never.

“If that is what you think Charles” He was still walking “why the fuck are you so interested in taking all the credit for it.” That stopped him, but he didn't turn around. “It's only you and me in this meeting, I'm there as the company data-hound, all I'm going to be doing is giving the man a bigger stick to beat you with.” He still didn't turn “He didn't invite any of your other assistant program managers, he blames you.” I finished, he turned.

“Do you really want this Stephenson?” He said with barely contained rage, people rarely swore at Antigem and never to there seniors. But it did make him take me seriously.

“Yes, I do. This is my chance, I can do this.” I said with a bit of injected sincerity, he bought it thinking I was stupid, desperate or both.

“Well you can have it.” he said as if he was stabbing me in the back with the words.

“So this was really Stephenson's program all along?” Cambell said, slightly disbelievingly.

“Yes, it was a small program, he has shown a lot of promise in recent years and because of his apparent capability I let him run the program with minimal oversight. And now even with our departmental investigation showing that it was his covering up of data that lead to this disaster he has just asked me to turn over corporate responsibility to him!” DeRoy replied.

“An investigation?” he said disbelievingly “I assume this has already been written up?”

“Yes” DeRoy removed a small bound report from the stack of paper he had been fondling since we left his office ten minutes ago. I hadn't seen this stitch up coming – but it was probably because it didn't matter, I hadn't wasted the neurons on it.

“Is this true Stephenson, do you really want your position, pay, pension and share options linked to the 'success' of this program?” Said Cambell, turning to me as he said it.

“Yes, I think I can convince you that this chemical has a future.”

“Then it is done.” he said, eyes on fixed on me “DeRoy, get lost and see if you can stop yourself or your underlings from fucking up any of your other programs.”

Once DeRoy left with a curious mixture of anger and relief on his face Cambell invited me to sit. As I did so he picked up the report DeRoy had given him, briefly flicked through it and threw it quite accurately in to the bin at the corner of his office. If he was going to sink this study he was not going to need a report to do it , the study and all it's data would be wiped.

“So tell me about beta-globulin's future, Stephenson.” He said in a measured tone.

“The toxic effects of the molecule are not linked to the designed active site of the molecule. It can be removed and the program can continue.”

“And what about the inconvenient data?”

“We run the new molecule through Pre-Phase as if it was a completely new discovery and wipe all the original data.”

“Nice idea, of course it has been done before but only when the molecule has looked too promising to let the death of a few pacific islanders get in way. Beta-globulin really doesn't look that promising a molecule, certainly not worth committing such a serious crime for.”

“No, beta-globulin will be lucky to pay for it's development.” I said evenly.
Cambell shifted in his seat uncomfortably, either because he didn't know where I was going with this or because he did and he didn't particularly like how that made him feel.

“I think you'd better tell me what this is about Stephenson.” I at least had his attention.

“The autopsy data mining turned up some very interesting data.”

“About people the drug killed or how the drug killed them?”

“Both. my interest was piqued by the follow up on the racial profiling data. The initial study indicated nothing useful, but follow-up histories and genetic test show that all the islanders that died had Chinese ancestry and that all the people who were unaffected did not.”

“Data mining of the Pre-Phase toxicology studies and further studies I initiated on human tissue indicated how the toxic effect works. it initiates the expression of a long dormant virus in Chinese DNA, that virus being degraded beyond any threat of ever infecting anyone I must add, the host immune system does the rest, by initiating cell death, which just serves to spread the toxin.”

“What are you proposing Stephenson?” Cambell said locking me with a predatory gaze.

“The beta-globulin study is a medical failure but we have inadvertently created a race selective bio-weapon, which I suggest we sell to the American military.” I said.

“And why do I need you to do this?” He said, but I had him.

“Because you still need someone to blame.”

Submitted: October 11, 2009

© Copyright 2022 Richard J Perry. All rights reserved.

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