Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cure for Cancer!

I remember a time around 10 years ago or more when every 6 to 12 months you would hear about some promising break through that promised to beat X, Y or Z cancer.

Well, these days they come a lot more often, and in fact I have seen one yesterday and one today. However, the new ways of combating cancer are for all cancers, not just the fashionable ones.

Most ways of dealing with cancer relied on battering everything on the basis that healthy tissue would recover whilst cancer cells would not. Radio therapy certainly works this way. So no cure has been pleasant.

Drugs like Herceptin have been developed but are specific to one type of cancer, or rather one subset.

The problem with cancers is that they are of course quite a lot like normal human cells, so it has been hard to target them specifically.

Well, not so know, and more bizarrely the two things that can beat cancer are both naturally occurring. Odds are you have had at least one of them, and if you like hot food, both, so are fairly safe as well.

The BBC has this on Jalapeno peppers as a cure, or rather the chemical that makes them hot, capsaicin which does interesting things to a cancer cells mitochondria. Mitochondria are a cells boiler house, and almost all cells have them. Apparently they are different in cancer cells, and have different proteins in them. Capsaicin binds to the proteins and effectively shuts the mitochondria down leading to cell death. It does not affect normal cells because they don't have the protein. You can also read this on when the jalapeno pepper cure came to light for prostate cancer.

The Guardian has this on the Common cold. Another thing that is different about cancers is that in order to survive they shut down the immune system locally. If they didn't the immune system would wipe the cancer out and that would be that. What scientists have found is they can use this against the cancer by giving it the common cold.

The common cold is a virus, and like all viruses it gets into a cell, replicates until it fills the cell, which then bursts and then all the "children" go on to do the same to other cells. Whilst this is going on, and cells are dying the immune system gets it's act together and finds a way to kill off the virus. Except not in tumours, because the cancer cells have shut down the immune system so they are easy pray. What is more, out side this sphere of protection the immune system is waiting for any common cold viruses.

For me the exciting thing about both techniques is that the do not damage healthy tissue, or at least not significantly and so should have a lot less in the way of side effects.

Well, as a smoker I have to say I am pleased. Now all I have to worry about is whether the milk I have in my copious amounts of tea are negating all the good effects of having the tea in the first place!


Ellee said...

I thought these peppers were used as a symbol for fertility or impotency. You see them hanging in garlands in places like Italy. If it can help cure cancer and sexual problems, then it should be sold in bucketloads.

Benedict White said...

Well, Ellee, that may be so, but we have to be clear that we do not want to mix a cure for *cough* bedroom problems with cervical cancer, as I suspect it may be painful ;)