Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This is really cool

The year is 2030.  While doing a regular breast or testicular exam (I'm covering both sexes here, not those with both.  Get your mind out of the gutter), you find a lump.  You immediately go to your doctor for testing, and after multiple blood, tissue, and imaging tests, it's confirmed as cancer.

20 years ago, in 2010, that would have meant surgery to remove the affected area, chemotherapy to kill any cancerous tissue that was left behind, and possibly radiation therapy.  All of these give you a really good chance of survival, but you are sick and recovering for years, and will always live in fear that the cancer will return and you'll have to go through all of that again.

However, now you are sent to a nano-oncologist.  After a few tests to make sure they match your treatment with your specific malady and tissue type, they give you several infusions of "medicine".  You don't lose your hair or your lunch, you don't walk around nauseous and weak for months on end, and after a few months you are confirmed cancer free.

This is all because of research that was published in 2010 by the California Institute of Technology.  Microscopic particles that are designed to latch onto cancer cells release RNA into the cancer to cause it to starve itself to death by not producing protein.  After delivering their payload, the particles break down and are passed out of the body with the other waste.

No nasty side effects.  Only cancerous tissue is effected, and it's thoughout the body, so there could be less chance that cancer will lurk somewhere waiting for a chance to return.

I'm really excited about this.  My grandmother died of cancer.  She went through a lot trying to fight it.  Treatments like this will provide an easier treatment for me and my children in the event that it runs in the family.

Also, this method could be used to treat other medical problems.  I have arthritis.  The best medicines for my condition are called TNF Alpha blockers, for Tumor Necrosis Factor - Alpha.  Basically, my body creates inflamation by producing a substance normally used to fight off cancers and other diseases.  The medicines inhibit the action of this substance, thereby cutting down on the inflammation.  But the medicines have side effects, and eventually stop working as my body builds up a resistance to them.  It would be great if I gave myself a shot every so often to stop my body from over-producing TNF Alpha, with no side effects.  I might even be able to wear a patch like the ones used to help people stop smoking that slowly fed my body a stream of these particles.

Or if a diabetic, another condition that runs in my family, could be given particles that target the panceras, and induce it to create insulin at normal levels.

The use of this kind of technology would be revolutionary.  Research like this could lead to cures and treatments for diseases that people either die from or just have to live with.  Research like this is either done by companies that specialize in medical treatments, or is sponsored by them at universities.  But if the money won't be there to sell the resulting drugs, devices, or technologies, these companies won't pay for the research in the first place.  This is one more reason I don't like the government control of health care.  And I have skin in the game on this one.  Anything that improves my or my children's chances of having treatments for conditions that run in my family is good for us, and anything that threatens these treatments is bad for us.  So I'm not entirely idealistic or altruistic in my opposition to Obamacare.

H/T to Slashdot for the link.

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