Meet Virus, The New Hope For Cancer Treatment
Seems as though the almighty virus has been a consistent headliner in the news since the H5N1 debate popped up a few months ago. That being said, here we are, discussing the impact that the "virus" has had, and will have, on the human species.
For most it is difficult to think about the virus as a species in itself, but there is some truth to that line of thought. Many have speculated that a virus has the ability to communicate with other viruses of similar composition, improving their ability to evolve into what we see each year at an alarming rate. Take the flu virus for example. Each year, a new flu vaccine enters the market to combat the arrival of an evolved flu virus that fought through the "solution" of the previous year. Without the ability to communicate, it seems like an impossible feat for a global species to evolve defenses against a vaccine it may have never even encountered.
A Line of Time
Well, this intelligence has peaked the interests of humans in the medical field for the last century and that interest may start to pay off in the very near future. Take a look at this timeline to get an idea as to what we have been looking for:
1904 - Woman is discovered with cervical cancer. At such an early period in time, the cancer was vaguely understood, therefore the treatment methods were experimental at best. The doctors decide to inject the woman with the rabies vaccine. The woman temporarily recovers.
1905 through 1960ish - The research is continued with great excitement, but very little results. Doctors inject cancer patients with polio, adenovirus, chicken feces, sick chicken feces, kitty plague, and a whole bunch of other nasty stuff. A vast majority of the experiments proved fatal for the patient, either from the cancer, or from the virus they injected taking hold and further diminishing an already weak body.
1990 - Bernard Roizman, signals a master gene in the herpes virus that gives it the strength to pwn the human immune system. Hypothesizes that removing that gene may make the virus deadly to cancer virus cells (which have very weak defenses, but extremely viral reproductive systems), but relatively safe for the rest of the human immune system.
1991 - A Dr. Martuza decides that the herpes virus should be given another run at cancer. Martuza removed some of the genes that gave the virus its immune killing potential, gave it to mice with brain cancer, saw some remission, and then the mice died of encephalitis.
1996 - Dr. Ian Mohr, reads a little bit of history, understands it, and takes Martuza's research into the next phase: he takes the inhibited virus, shows it a ton of cancer cells repeatedly and, wouldn't you know it, the virus evolved into a cancer killing machine. He continued to evolve the virus so that it ignored the immune system entirely and went straight for the cancer cells.
Sixteen years later, the studies that started with Mohr's experiments are coming to an end. Though none of the studies have been published yet, the researchers running them seem to have high hopes for these little mutant viruses.
Pats On The Back...
Personally, I would like to throw out some major kudos to Dr. Ian Mohr, for embracing the seemingly unbelievable idea that viruses are magnificently adaptable and have the capability of both saving our species and wiping us out. What a beautiful creature, the virus, with all the ability of a deity packed neatly into a smaller than life package.
See you next week...