Research, evidence, and ethics: new technology or grey medicine

Haoran Zhai, Wenzhao Zhong, Yilong Wu


Major pioneering advances of medicine in history tend to manifest in two directions that seem divergent but actually unified with dialectics: one is the important biological principle revealed by in-depth studies from the clinic to the laboratory based on individual cases; the other is the colonial generality displayed by epidemiologic data from large-scale samples. Although advances predominated, we human beings were paying dearly for it due to serious incidents of endangering ourselves and defects of restrictions of laws and ethics. Subsequently, the Nuremberg Code, Declaration of Helsinki and Belmont Report came into light and constrained human experiments and clinical trials. However, the development of such laws and regulations in China is lagging behind and renders China as a breeding ground for gray medicine. There are three lessons we can learn from painful histories and apply to individualized treatment of lung cancer. Firstly, the abuse of Avastin beyond its indications reflected the similar situation of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer due to different molecular types and stages of tumors; secondly, the black market of stem cell therapy in China reminds us how to identify the boundaries of clinical trials and clinical treatment, in similar to the cellular immunotherapy of tumors; thirdly, the theory of Xiao’s Reflex Arc emerged us to rethink the level of the validity of clinical evidences, which can provide hints related to video-assisted thoracoscopic surgeries (VATSs). In conclusion, clinical applications of new techniques and treatment regimens should follow three points: identify indications and contraindications clearly, obtain informed consent and permission of patients and supervise effectively according to laws and ethics.