My father passed away from lung cancer about five years ago. Despite some experimental treatment, he lived about 6 months after diagnosis. My aunt died of esophageal cancer. One in four Americans die of cancer.They say that every man, if lived long enough, will eventually get prostate cancer.

Sometimes I am amazed that cancer is yet to be cured. With big pharma spending billions for a cure, and with all our advanced research and technology, we still can’t reverse advanced cancers.

Here’s a series of(really good) NY Times articles about testing of a drug called PLX4032 which targets a specific protein (called B-RAF), which occurs in about 50% of melanoma patience:

However briefly, PLX4032 had held off the cancer by blocking a particular protein in its cells that was spurring them to multiply. If such targeted drugs were ever to provide a lasting benefit, many oncologists believed they would need to be combined with others, much as cocktails of protease inhibitors have worked against H.I.V.

The article explains that the drug is able to stave of cancer growth for about nine months. I would have done almost anything for nine extra months with my father.

Another interesting development, and one that seems more applicable to a large variety of cancers, uses nanoparticles to deliver substance to block protein expression in cancer cells:

A multi-institutional team of researchers and clinicians has published the first proof that a targeted nanoparticle can traffic into tumors, deliver double-stranded small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and turn off the production of an important cancer protein using a mechanism known as RNA interference (RNAi). Moreover, the team provided the first demonstration that this new type of therapy, infused into the bloodstream, can make its way to human tumors in a dose-dependent fashion, that is, a higher number of nanoparticles sent into the body leads to a higher number of nanoparticles in the tumor cells. These two findings were achieved in phase I clinical trials in which the investigators are testing a nanoparticle-siRNA construct as an anticancer therapy.

Death is a fact of life, so far, but I don’t believe it needs to be. Technology has helped us facilitate more “unnatural” phenomena (like wireless communication) as one day it may cure old age, sickness, death and cancer.