A Sampling of Present Work on Targeted Cancer Therapies

I am not complacent about the cancers that no doubt lie in my future - just as they lie in yours. But I am not terribly concerned either; I give more thought to the fate of my wallet than to the fate of my flesh when it comes to cancer. By the time I hit the stage of life at which cancers are most likely to manifest, then the state of the art in safe and robustly effective cancer therapies will be impressive indeed. That will be true even if all that happens in between now and then is that the present technology demonstrations carried out in laboratories are developed into commercially available therapies ... and I'd expect far more progress than that to happen over a twenty year span of time.

Here are two more reassuring examples of ongoing development in biotechnology for those of us fortunately enough to have the luxury of time when it comes to cancer - even if we certainly don't have the luxury of time when it comes to aging itself.

Nanotechnology may lead to new treatment of liver cancer:

Researchers evaluated the use of molecular-sized bubbles filled with C6-ceramide, called cerasomes, as an anti-cancer agent. Ceramide is a lipid molecule naturally present in the cell's plasma membrane and controls cell functions, including cell aging, or senescence. ... The beauty of ceramide is that it is non-toxic to normal cells, putting them to sleep, while selectively killing cancer cells

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Cerasomes [can] target cancer cells very specifically and accurately, rather than affecting a larger area that includes healthy cells. The problem with ceramide is that as a lipid, it cannot be delivered effectively as a drug. To solve this limitation, the researchers use nanotechnology, creating the tiny cerasome, to turn the insoluble lipid into a soluble treatment.

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Researchers [previously] observed that cerasome use led to complete remission in aggressive, large granular lymphocytic leukemia in rats. ... It is plausible that preventing liver tumor vascularization with cerasome treatment could induce widespread apoptosis, a genetically programmed series of events that leads to cell death in tumors

The Answer To Wiping Out Cancer Could Be World's First Chemical Guided Missile:

Current cancer treatments destroy the cells that form the bulk of the tumour, but are largely ineffective against the root of the cancer, the cancer stem cells. This suggests that in order to provide a cure for cancer we must accurately detect and eliminate the cancer stem cells.

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researchers have [created a targeted] RNA aptamer, a chemical antibody that acts like a guided missile to seek out and bind only to cancer stem cells. The aptamer has the potential to deliver drugs directly to the stem cells (the root of cancer cells) and also to be used to develop a more effective cancer imaging system for early detection of the disease.

Many different research groups are developing many different competing methods of both targeting cancer cells and delivering existing chemotherapy compounds in a highly targeted way. The chemical compounds used in many existing cancer therapies could be the basis for very safe and very effective future therapies if only they could be delivered just to cancer cells, and in small doses that did not leak out into neighboring tissues. This is exactly the capability being demonstrated over the past few years in laboratories around the world.

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