For decades, the medical industry has been trying to find a cure for one of the deadliest diseases known to man. A disease that has killed more people than any other disease in history. Cancer. The word alone is enough to strike fear in the hearts of people all across the world. To date, no definite cure has been found for this terrible ailment. It is true that a combination of chemo and radiation therapy has been able to slow the progression of some cancers, and even send it into remission in some cases; however, many times the cancer either continues to progress or go away only to return years later. Chemo and radiation both have a plethora of harmful effect, including extreme weakness and a total absence of an immune system. Doctors, scientists, and the public at large have wondered for years how to rid themselves of such a terrible threat to humanity. A threat that kills over 560,000 each year, 1,500 a day in the United States alone. A threat that has killed over 5 million people in under 30 years (since 1990) in America. A threat that, since being discovered in 1600 BC by the Egyptians, has been responsible for over 15 percent of all human deaths. The answer could lie in yet another deadly disease.
The first step to curing cancer is knowing how it works. When cells reach the end of their life cycle, they copy their DNA and split. If something goes wrong, the copied cell could lose the section of DNA that controls continued copying. When this happens, the cell doesn’t die after being copied, and instead continues to grow and copy itself. In addition, any copies will do the same thing. After this goes on for a while, a tumor forms. While this is an oversimplified definition, the basic principle is the same. And scientists have known about this process since 1902. So, more than a century later, why haven’t we cured cancer? Well, knowing how cancer works isn’t enough; in order to cure it, we must be able to develop a cure as well as a way to deliver the cure. In years past, any attempt to kill the tumor cells would almost always result in killing healthy cells as well. But now, scientists believe they have found a potential cure for something that has been described as incurable for over three and a half thousand years.
In recent years, some progress has been made by repurposing a virus to “fix” cancerous cells. This works because viruses inject their own DNA into any living thing they can latch on to. This includes cancer cells. By replacing the DNA injected with the DNA needed to make tumors copy themselves properly, it could be possible to cure cancer once and for all. The only problem is finding the right virus. It must be able to only affect cancerous cells as well as still function when the DNA is replaced. Because more infectious viruses are more likely to cause an effect to cells, the most recent experiments are being conducted with an extremely infectious, extremely deadly disease. AIDS. Like cancer, the word strikes dread into millions of people. However, it may be the key to wiping out cancer for good.
No single private company is researching this method, mainly because it is expensive, up to $20,000 without a profit margin. Despite this, many scientists are working on this new prospect, and it is beginning to show promise. A second grader has already been cured of her lymphoma using this method, and she is just one of dozens. There are many downfalls, though. The virus also attacks healthy cells, meaning her and other must take immune support drugs for a long time, if not their entire life. And injecting a disabled virus of any kind has its risks. It is unlikely that anyone will contract a contagious AIDS virus, but they can still get very sick. And it doesn’t work 100% of the time – yet. Scientists still need more funding in order to make the final breakthrough needed. The money needed won’t come from large pharmaceutical companies, however, because there is no profit to be made and no patent to be placed as this method has been around for a few years. While any donations help, a substantial amount of money is needed, and likely won’t be achieved through a few measly givings. The best way to help this cause is to spread awareness as much as possible and force large companies to take notice. Hopefully, some time in the future, we can finally rid ourselves of this terrible disease and be able to say, once and for all, the world is cancer free.