The Speculist: A Cancer-Fighting GIFT

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A Cancer-Fighting GIFT

Aubrey de Grey has stated that aging is caused by seven problems:

  1. Cell loss, cell atrophy
  2. Junk outside cells
  3. Crosslinks outside cells
  4. Death-resistant cells
  5. Mitochondrial mutations
  6. Junk inside cells
  7. Nuclear mutations that cause cancer

Each of these problems got a chapter in Aubrey's new book Ending Aging. In each chapter de Grey explained the problem and then outlined the most promising methods for conquering each. Although the book was only released a couple of weeks ago, at least two chapters already need major revisions - chapter 12 on cancer, and chapter 6 on mitochondrial mutations.

That's how fast the state of the art is moving now. I'll bet Aubrey de Grey couldn't be happier. Both of these developments were announced at de Grey's own SENS3 conference last week.

Attendees at SENS3 heard first-hand about an extremely exciting approach to cancer treatment that has not yet hit the scientific literature or the press. In 2003, Dr. Zheng Cui and his colleagues at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University reported the discovery of mice with immune cells that rendered them invulnerable to cancer: they had been intentionally giving mice cancer by injecting them with virulent cancer cells as part of a separate study, when they discovered a single mouse in the colony that was completely immune to the invasive cells.

His curiosity piqued, Dr. Cui went on to show that it could resist multiple rounds of such injections, and were so impressed that they used him to father a whole colony of mice, all of whom shared this remarkable invulnerability to cancer. Based on that ability, he calls them spontaneous regression/complete resistance (SR/CR) mice.

I'm glad Dr. Cui put that mouse out to stud. And not just because his decendents may help us cure cancer. That mouse earned it. I'm reminded of the plot to Unbreakable.

Amazingly this ability to fight off cancer is transferable to normal mice with a simple transfusion. It both prevented cancer and fought off cancer that had already started. And a single dose is sufficient to give a lifetime - a mouse's lifetime anyway - of cancer protection.

Then Dr. Cui went looking for these special immune system cells in humans. He found them.

...there appears to be a classical bell-shaped distribution of cancer-killing ability in the granulocytes of people in the population: a few people have white blood cells extremely weak cancer-killing activity, the great majority have an 'average' competence, and a very small group of outliers have the kind of overwhelming search-and-destroy activity (at least in a test tube!) that is seen in the SR/CR mice.

Dr. Cui now has FDA approval for human testing of his proposed "GIFT" (Granulocyte InFusion Therapy). He will transfuse granulocytes from cancer resistent people to people who are battling cancer. He just needs funding.


Next post: why the mitochondrial chapter of Ending Aging needs an update.


UPDATE:

Aubrey de Grey has just published an excerpt from Ending Aging at KurzweilAI:

Bootstrapping our way to an Ageless Future

Comments

Amazing and exciting stuff. I wonder if there's anything we can do to help this man get his funding...other than blogging about it, which you have taken the initiative on.

Also, while Unbreakable is one of my favorite films, I'm afraid I don't see the connection here. Maybe you were thinking of a different Samuel L. Jackson movie?

Heh!

I'm tired of this *&%$ cancer on this $%#* body!

I may have thrown off my Unbreakable comparison by bringing it up right after that "mouse out to stud" crack.

Spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen Unbreakable!

....

Bad guy has a disease that makes him break like glass. He comes to believe that there must be people who are the opposite - unbreakable. He thinks that they would be like the superheros of his comic books.

Being evil he has no problem staging disasters to weed out the normal people. After staging multiple disasters he finally hears the news he was waiting for...

"There was only one survivor and, miraculously, he was unhurt."

That's our (SR/CR) mouse. He has a remarkable ability to fight off cancer and he was found by giving cancer to a bunch of mice.

Readers who would like to help researchers like Cui get the funding they need should visit Mprize.org.

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