DiscoverTED Radio HourFighting Cancer

Fighting Cancer

Update: 2017-08-187
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Cancer is merciless. It can strike any time, spread without warning, and return unannounced. In this hour, TED speakers reframe not only how we treat cancer, but how we live with it and survive it. Guests include cancer technologist Jorge Soto, Dr. David Agus, Dr. Jay Bradner, Dr. Dean Ornish, and minister Debra Jarvis. (Original broadcast date: July 31, 2015)

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

support for Ted Radio Hour and the following message come from the platinum Card from American Express there's a whole breathtaking and surprising world out there and no other card lets you experience it like the platinum card backed by the service and security of American Express A It's guy here just a quick note to let you know that today's show originally aired in July of twenty fifteen it's all about changing how we treat cancer and even our understanding of the disease you can hear from some of the leading researchers and technologists involved in the fight against cancer and I promise you it is not the depressing episode it's actually pretty uplifting so here it is this is the Head Radio Hour each week groundbreaking had talked at the Ted Technology Entertainment Design at Stanford never delivered and had conferences around the world gift of the human imagination we had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rise Jorge Soto grew up in Mexico his parents are both doctors there and like doctors anywhere they work a lot so when Jorge was a kid he is not mighty was the one who would look after him so he has to take care of me we have to play good against a debtor may even taught me how to have that kind of person she took care of me whatever I need to de Jorge is an engineer he lives in the Bay Area now has only recently has on Maddie was the one who needed taking care of almost a year ago my aunt to start the suffering but it's her day was a normal injury for someone that had been playing tennis for almost thirty years recommended her to some therapy that was Jorge on the Ted stage and twenty four team is on she wasn't suffering from a tennis injury she had lung cancer but it would take months and a series of different tests before they even diagnosed in the US almost feel her if she never smoked a cigarette never drunk alcohol in sports for most car for like so she didn't fit the profile of a person that you suspect that that has a lung cancer which is why an injury or a nasty infection at least initially seemed more likely to use the one who has been a social gaffe in the day with the glove so they did at the Tea for Two across his lesson at the moment when the tide book Islam because we have Malay and at this point when Jorge is on the biopsy that's when you'd expect things to finally move faster but in fact it was just the opposite well Mexico although it's an American economy and we have very sophisticated her speed of general still if she wanted to let her biopsy done he needed to travel five hours to Mexico City to the closest hospital that could present survives in two weeks later the recess of the IFC came back the West State Street and at that stage Stage three only eight percent of people live beyond five years the thing is for his son wasn't diagnosed any differently in Mexico than she would've been anywhere else the only difference there was that it took a lot more time with the process avoiding back and forth at this friend up there this gratin steamed them his card in the season is over and over was a stressful and frustrating and that is the way cancer diagnoses have been done to the end of history however they my aunt's fighting bravely go into this process again this was Jorge in late two thousand fourteen when he gave his talk and one one month or so after that at the AA because this bread in over her body and a man and we spent Christmas and New Years Eve to our entire family and she knew was less what was going to happen and everybody knew and we we A and when you attempt a letter she was very common have been so hard yeah yeah it's it's very unfair the C's am very afraid that if both how it's being diagnosed and how he's being treated at the the tragic irony of the story is that Lon for his on Mattie died of cancer even during her struggle to get a diagnosis Jorge Soto was in the lab in Silicon Valley working on an invention to make cancer easier to detect to They The happens mainly when symptoms appear that he has stage three or four maybe that is too late is too expensive for families is too expensive for him and now the cost is because of the US would also cost to the people with a minor key people seen in the Saudis would be diagnosed with some type of cancer and whatever four will die because if we change those numbers because the story they not tell is that you or someone close to you will get this disease to spend this hour looking at where we are in the fight against cancer and how a whole new way of thinking that it could change how we treated maybe even live with it more like a chronic disease than a fatal one thing in general in the next ten to fifteen years has there will be a very comfortable easy it will be a condition like HIV or their belief is not in these bodies not try The The soap to get to that point harness or tow and a team of scientists working in a way to give cancer patients the one thing is on didn't have time here's more from parties to talk to they give people still have access to a conservation methods even though we know that catching cancer early basically the closest thing we have to see what you're against it we know that we can change in our lifetime and that is why my team and I decided to begin to during this journey to try to make her depiction of the early stages easier cheaper smarter and more accessible than ever before the context of course the weeding out time for technology is instructing our present that explanation it's based on recent scientific discoveries believe that we have found a reliable and accurate way of detecting several types of cancer very early stages but some do it by detecting said the boy's molecules to create free number got called micro aren't so micro our days are basically tiny molecules that are associated with specific cells and tissues in our body scientists first discovered this in nineteen ninety three so for example they are said to my grenade that should only be found in the heart of my corny that should only be found in the lever and so on and until pretty recently that's what we knew but in two thousand and eight in two thousand eight scientists discovered damage to specific parts of the body releases specific micro our days into the bloodstream for example my Canon AE one that's the heart my cunning if that micro RNA pattern is floating around in your blood that means there's a problem with the heart and and heart cells are being broken apart to my choir days like it's like this little bubble inside of your bloodstream that saying Wait I have this information it yet i be i should be here but the problem with my car mates you cannot detect them with another ad least not easily that the money to they fix my chi Mace our air is extremely expensive like a sequencer and they require highly trained scientists so Jorge and his team are working on a new way to test for my Clara's is very small bio markers that could indicate cancer in its early stages we believe that we have fun with this and this is the first time that was shown in public and illustration just a pas here Jorge did on the Ted stage was very visual so I'm going interrupt his flow from moment to discredit him in the next time you will to your doctor and the U next on the rut this so imagine a simple blood test your next doctor's visit anime neighborhood love can do it and puts it The Nice is what they see you take a blood sample can you drop it into ninety six tiny wells on a specially designed plastic lap lanes at the size of an iPhone six Plus it's one of these safe and well coated with the specific biochemical agent looking for specific micro aren't acting like the fact that this is only when the mike when discussing the sump the biochemical agents in those traps are specially designed to react in the presence of specific micro RNA so after you've dropped in the blood sample to take that plate with a blaze that I think he shows us he'll devise to crockpot a Yes creating a heaping on the fence and coming up to the conditions the conditions for a chemical reaction to begin and then a step that makes this technology cheaper and easier than anything out there and then the years more front of them are from a connected computer and it's also come to Reno for folks a smart phone sitting on top of the device runs an app that if the cubicles are pretty stinking cute and the smartphone we can detect which of those biochemical wells start to glow yet if specific micro our days are trapped because every minute and comparing the AA which was her shining how much and how fast and sending that information to the smartphone uses cloud data to analyze the photos snow highly trained doctor that needs to interpret the data means that this test can go anywhere a smartphone can process left on sixty Minutes when the presidents over the inside story of humble we just picked the track becomes the the kid this was amazing to see is incredible but for now the machine can only test for a few very specific answers and then there's another obstacle which is that my car days don't just appear in blood when you have cancer they can also show up if you had that same day I hired party last night when you have a hangover you'll find my car nice to great things we need to understand or a broken arm or a cold Michael our days will be detectable or taste test is getting better and better at figuring out the difference and if the tests continue to show encouraging results it could be a standard part of your annual physical within the next three years and I don't think you replace one hundred percent all the other is going that we have today in three years but it will be much more available and the thing the next ten years day and Mason would take forever it will not be reactive with the preventive I say very clearly that we early stages but so far have been able to successfully identify the micron a pattern that the cancer lung cancer breast cancer and about the kinds and Carly were doing a clinical trial in collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center two hundred women for breath as the the single non invasive accurate and affordable death has the potential to dramatically change the procedures and that mistakes have been done is we're looking for the micron a partisan job cuts at any given time you need to know which cuts are you looking for you need to have any symptoms young to need one major blood and the relatively simple array of tools and I'm certain they the very near future because of these and other races are we seeing everything in life sciences the way we see cancer we radically change will give us a chance of that they can understand it better and finding a cure thank you very much the uh oh early detection cancer engineer company is called miraculous cure cancer detection technology by the way will be made open source you can see how his talk at Ted dot com More ideas about fighting cancer in a moment I'm Guy Raz and this is the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the aural to Haven wonders could thanks to two of our sponsors who helped make this podcast possible very astute year old Heroes news second generation WiFi system has learned from the hundreds of thousands of systems from the previous generation the second generation euro is now a tri band and twice as fast allowing you to get the most out of your WiFi to learn more and get free overnight shipping visit euro dot com slash radio our hero ever think about WiFi again thanks also to a racket mortgage by Quicken loans mortgage gives you confidence when it comes to buying a new home or refinancing your existing home loan with rock a mortgage you can apply simply can't understand all the details so you can mortgage confidently to get started or racket mortgage dot com slash and ideas just kept equal Housing lender licensed in all fifty states and MLS consumer access dot org Number thirty thirty it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and I rise today on the show ideas about where we are and where we're headed in the fight against cancer in one place at the front lines of the battle is a research lab in Boston School The Brad or lab and its website there's a little tab that you can click it's up on my right hand corner says iced roads the That's right yeah and what does that do so the probe request button will trigger a page where scientists around the world can learn about molecules that are left is created and have made available for open source truck discovering the banner is the guy who makes the probes I'm a physician at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and I probed this we mean molecules molecules that could act like drugs in the fight against cancer and after J Brenner and his lab developed these molecules they share them and in the world of drug development that's kind of a new thing you see pharmaceutical sciences perhaps one of the most secretive fields in technology development time second only perhaps to defense contractors I think it was starting to see this change the owner described why that changes started to happen just in the past ten years and what it could mean for the future from the stage it's fair to say that in these ten years we've witnessed absolutely the start of the scientific revolution that of dental Medicine we know more about the patience that answer our clinic now than ever before and were able finally to answer the question that's been suppressing for so why do I have cancer this information is also pretty staggering you might know that so far in just the dawn of this revolution we know that there are perhaps forty thousand unique mutations affecting more than ten thousand genes and that their five hundred of these genes that are bonafide drivers causes of cancer yet comparatively we have about a dozen targeted medications and this inadequacy of cancer medicine when my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer it's been known for decades what causes this malignant see its three proteins Ras mic p fifty three this is old information we've known since about the eighties yet there's no rational mic know p fifty three drug and you might fairly ask why is that and very unsatisfying its scientific answer is is too hard m and the reason why it's too hard is because so far scientists haven't been able to figure out how to switch jobs or block most of the genes that cause cancer to put its implicitly there's a gene called make this change is in your body to activate the conductor of an orchestra the five to fifteen percent of genes in your genome involved in cell duplication soulmate which is why most well studied genes tell your cells to grow but cancer almost uniformly centers make into overdrive and hijacked the jeans tells cells to keep dividing and dividing by to see if we could inhibit make it would have historic value in the treatment of cancer but at this moment this make Sheen this central conductor of the cancer growth Symphony is considered un drug label which is like calling a computer and surf able walk able it's a horrible term of trade but what it means is that we fail to identify a greasy pocket in these proteins into which we like molecular locksmith can fashion an active small organic molecule drug substance this is actually a very physical problems scientists need to know what kind of shape a specific protein has in order to design a drug molecule that can bind to it and then block it or even change it and in the past couple years new technologies have led to huge leaps forward in how scientists are tackling that problem such is the use of three dimensional pictures that can help to find nooks and crannies where a drug molecule might find the place where a drug molecule combined by the way is called the target been advances in chemistry or reconsideration of what is a molecule need to look like in order to occupy its target imagine reinventing the key and those advances in chemistry together J Brenner says have created now I believe enough examples of molecules targeting in trouble targets that really nothing is in trouble including even the mic she turns on the growth program of the human cell like the conductor of Orchestra J and his team of researchers knew that Mick played a big role in the growth of certain cancers and I thought that that role might have something to do with a certain protein called BRT for purity for it doesn't stand for Bradbury wish that he did this be ready for protein is very important because the mic Jean we hypothesized might require be ready for him as a co factor or more drinking body will be arty for the guest often got mixed into a lot of trouble we took J betters idea was to circumvent the behaviors of the master cancer causing gene neck they needed a drug molecule specifically designed to bind to and have it ready for a molecule like that could basically make cancer cells forget your cancer and so we started to work on this problem we develop libraries of compounds and eventually arrived in a molecule of all to my lab Dan Farber Cancer Institute called GQ one which we affectionately named for John Xi of the chemists that made this molecule not being a drug company we could do certain things with certain flexibility is that I respect the pharmaceutical industry doesn't have to start emailing it to our friend's small lab we thought we descended to people and see how the molecule behaves we sent it to Oxford England where a group of town to Crystal aka first provided this picture which helps us understand exactly how this molecule is so potent for this protein targets what we call a perfect fit shape commentary or hand in glove this a very rare cancer this be ready for addicted cancer and as we treated these cells with this molecule we observe something really striking the cancer cells small dividing through these arms in extensions they were changing shape in fact the cancer cell was forgetting it was cancer and becoming a normal cell meme the soul which A and his team did next was to turn this molecule into a truck and began testing it on a group of mice fourteen mice mice with cancerous tumors seven nice route would receive the drug and seven would not over the next fourteen days weeks or something very striking all the mice that received the drug or thriving and the tumors were no longer even palpable wow the mice that did not receive the drug unfortunately had progressed disease and did not survive so we started to wonder what would a drug company do at this point would probably keep this in a secret until they turn the prototype drug into an active pharmaceutical substance and so we did just the opposite we publish a paper that described this finding at the earliest prototype stage we gave the world the chemical identity of this molecule typically a secret in our discipline we told people exactly how to make it we give them our email address suggesting that if they write us will send them free molecule we basically try to create the most competitive environment for our lab is possible and this was unfortunately successful because now we've shared this molecule just since December of last year with forty laboratories United States in thirty more in Europe and by sharing this molecule far and wide J Brenner give scientists all over the world a chance to invent drugs based on his original cheque one molecule and already he says six other molecules have reached human clinical trials one of these molecules that looks just like J Q one and acts just like GQ one has shown remarkable activity in patients with advanced blood cancers at least one patient had a complete response to this medication meaning that we're hundred percent of their bone marrow was occupied by leukemia cells after about ninety days of therapy there was no evidence of leukemia at all that's incredible it's amazing do we mean we often hear like lower at the brink of this or that but like I like different inflection point we are at the brink of something really big changing in cancer treatment I do believe that we're an inflection point I think again about the software industry where source code is freely available and get hub but one of the best applications of source code are for computer scientists to bring it back to their garage to innovate around it to do something that changes the way that we access the internet on our telephone or wake up in the morning to your favorite song but I go to bed at night I'm very comfortable that there's a billion dollars out there for someone who cures cancer because Open Source Drug Discovery will bring many people to this is our challenge the the Brenner works at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and teaches at Harvard Medical School he can get your hands on his molecules at Brad her lab com or you are you also optimistic about where we're headed yet we were on the edge of the cliff were willing to take risks our patients are willing to take risks this is David A s He's also a cancer doctor and a professor at USC Medical School so it's really an exciting time where all of a sudden change of progress first time is happening and hopefully we're starting to make difference why but still right now this is the Vegas is reality to three times a week I look someone in the eye and say I have no more drugs to treat your cancer where remarkable pills that can stop leukemia a certain kind of it's track certain kinds of lung cancer certain kind of kidney cancer with immune therapy small little wins but the big picture is not a dramatic benefit why and so we need to reassess where we are and what a Vegas has been arguing is that the way we approach the fight against cancer is all wrong that cancer isn't just lung cancer breast cancer or prostate cancer but it's more about the environment where the cancer lives the entire body and so there are millions of contacts in the body and I look at it like you're driving to L A to San Francisco if I take a car and taken apart and look at every piece of the car he doesn't tell him how long it takes to get from L A to San Francisco I forgot the weather the traffic much caffeine the driver drank the bladder size of the driver because they all matter in the cancer world has many other diseases all we're doing is we're studying the car was studying the cancer cell and we forget to study everything else so I think the future of cancer research is not just studying that sell but studying the environment starting the whole system who the host is who the patient is one of the things that's holding us back from approaching cancer as a whole system is the way we talk about David picks up this idea from the Ted stage so one of the fundamental problems we having cancer is that right now we described by a number of adjectives symptoms I'm tired I'm bloated I F Payne it said are you that have an atomic descriptions you get that task and there's a three centimeter mass in the liver you can have some body part descriptions it's in the liver in the breast and prostate and that's about it so our dictionary for describing cancer is very very poor it's basically symptoms it's manifestations of a disease what's exciting is the government to spend four hundred million dollars and they've allocated other billion dollars to we call the Cancer genome Atlas project so it is the idea of sequencing all of the genes in the cancer in giving us a new lexicon a new dictionary to describe it so obviously the technology is here today and over the next several years that will change you are no longer a breast cancer clinic you will go to her to amplified clinic word e g afar activated clinic and they will go to some of the pathogenic lesions that were involved in causing this individual cancer ok so right now if you're diagnosed with breast cancer right you go to a breast cancer specialist and the doctor prescribes a standard treatment usually a combination of surgery chemotherapy radiation but here's the thing there are probably dozens of kinds of breast cancer does is a Guide to prostate and lung cancer going forward in a store to define the parameters are going to look at it and say this cancer can only live in the breast or chest surgery is all we need where this one grows like a treat we need to serve you with radiation or this one can live elsewhere the bodies we need to give chemotherapy so I think that's going to be the fundamental change here is that we're gonna start to treat the whole individual complex system rather than just the cell David idea here is that while we should treat cancer in the context of the body as just one part of a larger complex system we can do that without necessarily understanding how it all works the goal of me is a cancer doctor is not to understand cancer and I think that's been the fundamental problem over the last five decades is that we strive to understand cancer the goal is to control cancer and so the problem is that it's not just one system its multiple systems on multiple scales it's a system of systems what we're talking about in the body in cancer story to model it like a complex system well the bad news is that these robust robots is the key word emergent systems are very hard to understand in detail the good news is you can manipulate them you can try to control them without that fundamental understanding
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