06 April 2012

Beating Cancer: Nano Technology

Modern medicine is a truly amazing advancement in human society. We've come so far that normal disease is not our greatest threat, but instead the random mutations within our body that turn our own cells against us. Cancer. Yes, sometimes it is not random. Cigarrettes, alcohol, or any other environmental condition may be the trigger. But, many times cancer is horribly unprejudiced and random.

The treatments always have been horrendous. Is it worse to live for 2, 3, or 4 years, but have no quality of life versus letting the cancer run its course? I've not had to deal with this too personally (family members have had bouts with cancer, but not necessarily life or death at a "young" age), but I can imagine.

Whenever a new treatment comes available, I get hopeful. The most recent development comes from nano technology. The concept is to take extremely small particles that can be targeted to a specific type of chemical in the body (protein) and when it makes contact with cells that match this chemical make up, it latches on and releases a powerful dose of a cancer killing drug.

Think of it like the children's cardboard shape game. Except each missing shape - the circle, triangle, star - is a different cell in the human body. Pretend the cancer is a stain in the star shape hole. Typical Chemo is akin to taking this cardboard game and spraying the hole of it with cleaner, then shaking it vigorously to get the stain to fall off. You hope that the board holds together long enough to clean up the stain.

The nano particle treatment is more like using a star shaped cleaning pad to clean the stain in the correct hole. The rest of the game board does not suffer from the cleaning.

Until recently, researchers have struggled to find a good "shape" (protein) to use to latch onto the cancer... But they are starting to have some promising results. If the clinical trials continue to be as positive as the initial tests have been, we may be on the verge of a new medical break through.

Read the articles at The Telegraph and Scientific American for more details.

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