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Cancer Cure?

Currently there is a deadly killer on the loose. This year, roughly 550,000 people are expected to die from this silent killer, which is about 1500 people a day (American). Believe it or not, this killer is cancer. Over a million individuals are diagnosed with this disease annually and unfortunately not everyone diagnosed with the disease will survive from it (Cancer). Throughout the past several years there has been a great deal of research and testing to learn more about and possibly one day find a cure for this horrible disease. A major advancement has recently occurred and has sparked much discussion and hope of finding a cure for cancer. J. Christopher Anderson, a 31-year-old assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at UC Berkley has developed a bacterium that can help to fight and destroy tumor cells. Such advancement has allowed Anderson to be named a 2007 Young Inventors Winner, which has definitely created a name for him. In this paper I will demonstrate that (X) J. Christopher Anderson's bacteria will impact everyones' lives (Y) by explaining how the bacteria has (premise 1) created excitement within the medical community and may provide an alternative to our current treatments, (premise 2) met and will conquer worries about the ethics involved with using the bacterium, and (premise 3) brings to light the social injustice that lies within our health care system (Z) in order to revert skepticism and rally support for incredible new developments and this revolutionary bacteria.

Tumor Killing Bacteria and Alternative Treatments

The bacteria that Anderson has created basically acts in four steps. The first step is actually injecting the bacteria into the blood stream and eventually into the immune system. The bacterium is then able to focus in on areas that have low oxygen levels, or tumor sites, and are able to “trick? the tumor cell into letting it enter the cell. Once inside the tumor, the bacterium binds to the cell and becomes engulfed by it. Finally, the tumor cell bursts the bacteria, which releases a toxic enzyme ultimately destroying the tumor. This bacteria's actions are far beyond any other that has been created and will forever change the way we go about treating cancer and other diseases like HIV and AIDS. As of now the main treatments for cancer are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Surgery requires removing as much of the cancerous tumor as possible but may still leave parts of the cancerous cells that may be able to just grow back. There is also radiation therapy in which atom particles are sent into the body through a beam in hopes to destroy the molecular make-up of the cancer cell. The problem with this is that the process can actually cause another form of cancer to develop and may actually destroy normal cells during treatment. Chemotherapy adds toxic chemicals into the body in order to destroy the cancerous cells. This treatment is different from Anderson's bacteria because the new bacteria is able to focus on the cancer cells instead of veins and other areas of the immune system that can shut it down, which is a main problem of chemotherapy. Obviously, our current treatments do not always reduce the risk of cancerous cells, and those treatments may actually make the patient's health worse. The advances that J. Christopher Anderson has provided for the medical community provide hope, and another option for those struggling and suffering from the deadly killer that is cancer. Currently the bacterium is not being offered to the public and has just entered the stage of testing on animals. However, the bacteria creates much enthusiasm and shows that our medical science is very close to discovering an effective treatment for cancer.

Is it Right?

The use of such a treatment sparks not only excitement within the medical field, but questions of the ethical repercussions of the bacteria. Without a doubt, if the bacterium is proven to effectively target and destroy cancer cells in order to reduce the significantly large number of fatalities from the disease who is to say that the treatment is not ethical. By saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people a year through putting something into your bodies, is it not worth it? There are those that fear the idea of putting something into our bodies that bypasses our immune system and, after all, is a bacterium. HIV and AIDS are just two examples that people may use to base the theory that deliberately inserting something that is not impacted by our immune system could backfire and cause more problems then it solves. Because of the fact that the bacteria is in such an early state it is hard to say whether or not the bacteria will work exactly as it is supposed to. HIV and AIDS are two diseases that scare a majority of the public because it is a disease that we cannot fight off or treat at this stage of medical science and Anderson’s bacteria may turn and become a hindrance to our health. All bacteria mutates and adapts in order for it live longer, Darwin’s theory of evolution really comes into play here. If there is an organism that deliberately goes into a tumor cell and is eventually destroyed, who is to say if the bacteria wont adapt and eventually not be able to achieve the purpose it was created for? In the article “Are Antibiotics Killing Us?? by Jessica Snyder Sachs, the theory is discussed that the over use of antibiotics are causing our immune systems to not work as well as they should due to the fact that the body becomes dependent upon the antibiotic. In addition to weakening the immune system, antibiotics also create stronger forms of viruses and bacteria (Sachs 210-218). However, the bacteria that J. Christopher Anderson has created is being tested, thoroughly, and because of the fact that the bacteria is a product of synthetic biology it was created, therefore the bacteria is, to an extent, controlled. With that being said, it is hard to view the treatment of an individual suffering from cancer as unethical. When asked about his views of the bacteria being ethical Anderson responded by saying “I have never heard of anyone with reservations about the ethics of treating cancer with bacteria, but certainly there are many people who don't believe it will work. To them I say wait and see. All new ideas are met with such skepticism, and it is pretty futile to argue with people if you can demonstrate that it works in the lab.? As long as the bacteria is thoroughly tested and researched the possibility of harmful repercussions are minimal. Plus, one should not forget the fact that right now the bacteria is being researched and tested, it is by no means ready to be distributed, nor is it the exact bacteria that may be released. Through research and testing the bacteria may be modified in order to effectively destroy cancer cells while not harming any other aspect of human health.

A Decaying System

Another issue that is brought up by J. Christopher Anderson’s bacteria is the state of our current health care. Currently there are commercialized therapeutic bacteria being sold, and many believe that this cancer killing bacteria will be no different. This bacterium will most likely be sold just like any other prescription drug, which begs the question of who will be able to receive this bacteria? In a recent study taken this past year, the average American with health insurance through a employer will pay about $3,300 a year which is obviously too much for the 47 million individuals that are currently uninsured (Andrews). Because of the fact that so many cannot afford to pay for basic medical assistance, it is quite apparent that something must be done and soon. In the article “Falling Through the Safety Net? the author, Gerardine (Ged) Kearney, recants a story of his daughter falling and breaking her arm. He remembers how he went to his local doctor before going to the hospital, and recalls how he did not have to pay for any of it. However, now Kearney does have to pay for health care and like most is unsure of what he should pay for and what he should not. Kearney like so many others must now think about if the care he is receiving is needed or if it can hold off. By forcing people to choose between seeking medical attention for what might be a minor health risk but in fact could be much worse, or being able to afford the many other financial demands that life has our current form of health care is not working. If so many people are uninsured and therefore unable to afford medical treatment how is our current system of health care effective? People who are currently suffering from cancer and other illnesses that can be treated by the cancer killing bacteria are already paying thousands of dollars between hospital visits, prescription costs, therapy, and a variety of other expenses. For those who are already struggling to make ends meet how will they be able to afford this magical treatment that will supposedly make everything better?

J. Christopher Anderson has created a wonderful and natural treatment to a problem that has plagued millions. Through his research, dedication, and ingenuity Anderson has made a substantial mark on medical science and more specifically cancer research. Through the use of his cancer killing bacteria the millions of individuals that are diagnosed with cancer each year may now have a better chance at reducing the number of fatalities from the disease. After all, 550,000 is a large number of individual deaths from just one cause. Anderson has created a sense of hope, excitement, and even more importantly, a future for the advancement of medical science, research, and treatment options of such diseases like cancer. Despite the fact that this bacterium is currently still being researched and tested, it is hard to ignore the fact that we are so close to finding a cure to something that has never really had effective treatments. People who are suffering from cancer, or any other illness for that matter, can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, that little bit of hope to keep them going knowing that the medical advances of this day and age have reached a new height and show no signs of stopping. People can now breath easy knowing that through the research of scientist like J. Christopher Anderson are now looking at a variety of ways to address a variety of illnesses and will not settle on just one possibility. Even after the cancer killing bacteria is released, and even if it proves to be an effective treatment, scientists will not stop thinking of even more possible treatments for cancer. Medical science is ever changing and will always try to find new ways, better ways, to address the problems and issues that face people in the world today. J. Christopher Anderson is just one of many scientists who have used what they know to help improve the quality of life of people suffering from anything that may be unnecessary.

Works Cited

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2007. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2007.

Andrews, Michelle. “The Politics of Healthcare.? U.S. News & World Report Vol. 143 Issue 11 Oct. 2007: 27-28. EBSCOhost Research Database. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN. 3 Dec. 2007 .

Cancer Trends Progress Report - 2005 Update, National Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD, December 2005, http://progressreport.cancer.gov.

J. Christopher Anderson. “Re: I'm interested in your research and have some questions. ? E-mail to the author. 25 Nov. 2007.

Kearney, Gerardine (Ged), “Falling Through the Safety Net.? Australian Nursing Journal, Vol. 15, Issue 4, Oct 2007. EBSCOhost Research Database. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN. 3 Dec. 2007 .

Sachs, Jessica Snyder. “Are Antibiotics Killing Us?? The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Ed. Tim Folger. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. p 210-218.