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A Cure For Cancer

News & Politics

By Justin Kaiser       

Edited by Cynthia Swisher

A cure for cancer, is it even possible? Due to  recent advances in medical science what was once science fiction is now possibility.  Although not yet released to the public, many new cancer cures have been tested and proven successful thus far. These new treatments can range from simple drugs to using existing viruses to attack cancer cells.

A recent study shows that a once menacing virus might be able to assist in the battle against cancer. During the 1970’s it was observed that individuals with a natural measles infection showed a regression with certain types of cancer. This correlation led many to believe that the measles virus could possibly be used to treat cancer. Scientists have been able to genetically modify strains of the measles virus to only target cancer cells. The idea is that if this genetically modified virus were injected into a person, it would find and kill cancer cells and create new cancer destroying viruses. This treatment is called “oncolytic virus therapy.” In an early clinical trial a small number of people were injected with the modified virus. After a short amount of time they started to show symptoms of a normal virus as their immune systems began to attack the foreign bodies which were injected. However, over the next few months the patients showed a decrease in cancer cells. A tumor in one of them disappeared completely, although it did return a few months later. While more testing is needed this method holds much hope for the future.

A much more promising treatment called immunotherapy could hold the key, possibly replacing chemotherapy over the next few years. The idea behind immunotherapy is very simple; it uses the body’s own immune system to attack cancerous tumors. The drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab are used to boost the body’s immune system giving it an advantage over cancer. In Spite of the idea’s  simplicity, it has been proven effective in treating even the deadliest forms of cancer. A clinical trial involving 945 patients was conducted with astonishing results. The treatment put a stop to the spread of cancer in 58 percent of the patients tested. Out of this 58 percent, not only did some of them see their tumors stop growing, some had their tumors shrink, while some even had their tumors disappear completely. Clinical trials began over 10 years ago and even the earliest patients tested have been cured. Unfortunately, these drugs can cost an upwards of $150,000 each.

Another treatment still in the making, is called molecularly targeted therapy. Unlike chemotherapy which attacks everything, molecularly targeted therapy uses drugs that have been designed on a molecular level to attack only cancer cells. The main drug used for this is called Glivec. Glivec is designed to identify  certain types of cancer molecules, targeting and attacking them specifically.

Due to the many advances in medical science over the past few years scientists have been able to do the impossible and cure the incurable. While each treatment has its flaws and requires much more clinical testing, each shows hope and promise for the near future.

Header photo by Geir Mogen, NTNU (flickr creative commons)

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