Dr. Jay Bradner, a physician and chemical biologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, makes beating cancer sound easy – darn easy! Through the wonderful information that epigenetics science has delivered in the past decade, he believes cancer can be defeated simply by re-writing its genetic information such that it forgets that it’s a cancer, and starts behaving like a regular cell.
“With all the things cancer is trying to do to kill our patient, how does it remember it is cancer?” asks Bradner.
Researchers in Bradner’s lab have developed a compound that manipulates epigenetic instructions, and he has sent it out to hundreds of collaborators worldwide. “That’s not common in practice,” says Bradner, “but from first principles, it’s the right thing to do.”
Almost exclusively, research for a prototype drug is kept top-secret by labs, keeping its structure and research findings completely oblivious to the rest of the world. Bradner took an alternate route and simply made it freely accessible from the get to, first by reporting his findings in a paper, then by sending samples to just about any lab interest (you too can ask the good doctor for a sample – you just need to e-mail). Results poured in just after a few months, as possible treatments for other afflictions, besides the rare form of cancer Bradner’s research targeted, such as leukemia, while another lab showed that the compound could be used to poise fat cells to forget they’re fat cells as well. Yes, you could basically eat all you want without gaining weight or fatty tissue.
This research is phenomenal, right on the cutting edge of science, and while Bradner and his team still have quite a while before the first clinical trial is released, their progress is worth noting and, especially, following. For more scientific info and details on results, please check this article on Nature. For an easy to digest pill of insight on the subject at hand, book 10 minutes of your day and watch this incredible TED speech at Boston by Bradner himself.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.