Sunday, November 23, 2008

Curious - Curing Cancer

One year ago, public television aired a documentary in its Curious series about finding a cure for cancer. I missed it then, but it's finally available on youtube. The show features the first human to test IT-101, a nano-particle designed to destroy cancer tumors without the harmful side effects of chemo.

If you have 30 minutes, you should watch this because:

- It's a great love story: Dr. Mark Davis, a chemical engineering professor at Cal Tech, started researching cancer treatments when his wife, Mary, was treated for breast cancer at the City of Hope more than a decade ago. "There's got to be a better way," she told him when she became violently ill from a chemo called "the red death." He rolled up the sleeves of his lab coat and, unbeknownst to anyone, started researching cancer at the City of Hope library. The research and development for IT-101 grew out of Davis's love for his wife.

- It's a great collaboration: Dr. Davis eventually shared his idea with Dr. Stephen Forman (my doctor) at the City of Hope. Forman went to Davis's office at Cal Tech and saw a rough white-board sketch of the nano-particle (which looks a lot like Sputnik). He sensed right away that the idea could work. City of Hope eventually became a partner with Davis's company and participated in the first clinical trial of IT-101.

- It's a great concept: The IT-101 nano-particle is about a zillion times bigger than the cells of a typical chemo drug. Chemo cells are so small that they seep through the blood vessels into the rest of the body, indiscriminately destroying other fast-growing cells. The nano-particles are like a big MAC truck traveling down the highway of blood - too big to slip through an "off ramp" but not too big to take a detour through the porous blood vessels that crop up around cancer tumors. They can make a direct hit on the cancer cells without harming the rest of the body.

- It's a great success story: Ray's doctors predicted he only had a few months to live after his pancreatic cancer metastasized to his lungs. With nothing to lose, he became the first human guinea pig for for the stage one clinical trial of IT-101 at the City of Hope. The documentary brings us up to six months after treatment, and Ray is still alive and fighting another year later. The trial is over and IT-101 is not yet FDA approved, but Ray is still receiving treatment through compassionate use.

The drug is now in stage two of clinical trials and Davis hopes that it will be approved by the FDA in three to seven years.

Watch it here. It makes me more proud and grateful than ever to be associated with Dr. Forman and the City of Hope.


Atee said...

Hi Susan,
I've been (silently) following your blog and figured I'd work up the nerve to comment - afterall, it is the time of year to give thanks. So I wanted to thank you for sharing your story with me. I work in cancer research and speak with patients, family members, doctors, and other researchers everyday. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to be able to pull up one of your posts to show someone because they've echoed so intensely what I see and hear everyday. In addition to that, I'm an incorrigible foodie. Unfortunately, I don't live in LA so I can only savor your descriptions!

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy a shopping campaign for cancer research I heard about. Over 600 online retailers are donating a portion of their sales from to cancer research via the Cancer Research Alliance (which I think includes City of Hope as well). If only they could do a nation-wide Eat for Cancer Cures :)

Wishing you a belated 1-year birthday, and a happy thanksgiving.

Allison (ateedub)

susiegb said...

Those nano-particles sound really good! Funnily enough, when I was in hospital last year I saw a program here about some Aussie doctors who were researching something very similar. And they tested it on a dog with lymphoma ?!?!!

I think they also tested it (or were going to test it, can't remember) on someone in their organisation who had an incurable cancer and so also had nothing to lose. But he ended up getting an infection of some sort (unrelated) and died.

Really sounds similar doesn't it? But I know this was happening in Sydney Australia - just goes to show that people are working on amazing ideas everywhere ... :)

Nancy said...

This cancer research sounds remarkable. There's always something new on the horizon, so patient's should never give up! I believe that with all my might. Thanks for sharing this video. I plan to watch it tomorrow.

It was so great to see you last Monday. Now you know what I mean when I say I have crazy friends. But, they are loving, have huge hearts and are a total blast.

I hope to see you real soon! (especially since I'm craving J-town Ramen!) Maybe we can go to the A3M office for a Starnight debriefing then hit Daikokuya for lunch.

In the meantime, have a fantastic Thanksgiving! love, nancy

Susan C said...

Hello Allison, Thanks so much for following and for "coming out" and writing. It's so great to know that the posts are helping by echoing the experiences of your patients and their families. Many of us "cancer bloggers" started as just a convenient way to share info. with family and friends, but it's become so much more.

I will check out that website. LOL - Yes, someone should definitely come up with the EAT for cancer site.

Susie, I'm not surprised that the Aussies are working on something similar. I hope that dog with lymphoma is doing well. : )

Nancy, the OCO event was a blast, and you are one of the most bubbly people I've ever met. I'm looking forward to our next bowl of ramen together.