Cancer sucks, but some kinds of cancers suck worse than others. One that really sucks is pancreatic cancer. From the intro of this paper:
Pancreatic cancer (PC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among men and women, comprising 6% of all cancer-related death. The disease is usually diagnosed at advanced stage as it causes no specific symptoms in the early stages. Thus, the prognosis is very poor and the overall 5-year survival rate is <5%.
And then there is this:
There are several standard approaches to treat PC; however, none of them improves significantly the survival rates.
There is stuff physicians can do for pancreatic cancer, but it doesnt actually help. :-/
This looks like a job for… GMO VIRUSES!!!!
Srsly. Its like, if you have an unsolvable problem, the answer to that problem is almost certainly going to be a virus at this point. Srsly. I mean, its starting to get so mainstream that its a cliche. 😛
Im kidding– this paper took a very clever approach to GMO viruses vs Pancreatic Cancer. Nothing cliche about it.
Apparently, ~95% (!!) of PC have point mutations within a gene called K-Ras. K-Ras should only be turned on when cells are supposed to divide. But with tumors, K-Ras is telling the cells to ‘DIVIDE DIVIDE DIVIDE DIVIDE DIVIDE’ when they are not supposed to. It is always-on, instead of being controlled on/off.
This group of scientists did something very clever– they engineered an adenovirus to contain a PUMA gene proceeded by either nothing, or four signals that K-Ras loves, or five signals (Py2). PUMA is ‘p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis‘– ie, when PUMA is around, cells die.
So since pancreatic tumors (95% of them) have LOTS of K-Ras, K-Ras was ‘tricked’ by the sexy Py2 signals (delivered by the virus) into generating PUMA.
Lots of K-Ras + GMO virus = lots of PUMA = dead tumor.
No sexy Py2, no PUMA. No K-Ras, no PUMA.
This virus will only kill K-Ras upregulated cells, ie, tumors.
Of course, this paper was ‘only’ in cell lines and mice. Not people, yet. And, it wasnt able to perfectly kill the cell lines/tumors.
But it killed some of the cell lines (26-70%) and the tumors in the treated mice were ~1/4-1/3 the size of control mice.
Its not perfect, yet, but when you are dealing with a cancer that has stats like this:
…overall 5-year survival rate is <5%…
I will take ‘not-perfect’. Especially for a first-try GMO virus.