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Discovered in the valley of the one-eyed lambs, a toxic weed fuels a cancer-drug gold rush — and a quandary

PHILADELPHIA — The search began immediately after breakfast. It was Sunday, the last morning of a conference for patients with Gorlin syndrome, and as Kaylene Sheran finished up her bacon and eggs, Sara Ann Conkling turned the conversation to an experimental drug called patidegib. In this crowd, the medicine was something of a celebrity. Everyone was talking about it: a gel that could potentially shrink existing skin tumors and prevent the growth of new ones without causing the side effects of taking this kind of chemo in pill form. For Gorlin patients — who, in the most extreme cases, needed basal cell carcinomas surgically removed once every few weeks — that sounded too good to pass up.

So, Conkling asked between bites, what did Sheran think? Would she volunteer as a test subject?

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