The world seemed to stand still after the death of Steve Jobs was announced late last year. Many felt that the human race lost a true visionary, a unique mind whose time had come too soon. The cause of his death was pancreatic cancer, a malignant neoplasm so lethal it has a survival rate of only 25%. It’s also the fourth most common form of cancer in the world, and extremely difficult to detect and treat. The prognosis seems grim for patients with this horrible disease – but there’s hope on the horizon: an inexpensive new form of treatment has recently been developed that could change the course of modern medicine. Lab results have proven to be extremely promising, and this cure would have minimal side effects. So what and where is this scientific marvel, and why haven’t we all heard of it yet? Read on to find out.
Miracle Cure, Mundane Setbacks
As you read through this article, there sits in a Swedish laboratory refrigerator a promising new cancer treatment. It’s a strain of virus that has been adapted to infect cancer cells and consume them from the inside out, spreading rapidly in neoplastic cells but leaving normal tissues basically unscathed. Having already yielded great results in lab tests, this adopted virus known as Ad5[CgA-E1A-miR122]PTD just needs to go into clinical trials on humans to be marketed. But as of right now, it never will make into another lab. Since 2010, the scientist heading the team that discovered this landmark treatment has struggled to find the one million GBP needed to pay the health & safety bill that allows trials in humans.
You may be wondering: how can such a comparatively trifling amount be holding back a treatment that could be worth billions? Surely someone would pay for the trials in exchange for naming rights, or some share in the profits? The answer, unfortunately, is no: Prof Magnus Essand, the scientist responsible for the research behind this incredible find, published his results to share his knowledge with the world and forfeited the treatment’s patentability – and with it, its potential as a money-maker for a pharmaceutical company. Other sources of funding, such as grants, have come up short and public money in Sweden is off-limits for human testing. All of these factors equate to a dark future for the virus deemed “the cancer of cancer”.
A scientific critic may point out that even if this virus were to go to human trials, there is no guarantee that it would be effective in humans. After all, great results in petri dishes or on animals do not always translate to viability in people. However, the clinical trials would yield important new finding for scientists conducting similar experiments across the globe and could open the door to still more similar procedures with viruses. For now, the world must wait – and cancer patients must make due with existing forms of cancer treatment.