Yippy! Cancer cured!

Posted in Cancer, Culture of Lickspittle at 10:19 am by George Smith

“If you ever worry about the future of America, there is no need: it is in good hands,” reads the lede of a piece from CBS News yesterday.

It’s the beginning of a particularly excessive and aggrandizing feel good “cancer cured” story.

These have always been a feature of the US newsmedia and the care and feeding of our culture of lickspittle. Evidence to the contrary, cancer definitely not being cured in tech-mighty western civilization, is not an antidote or harsh cold shower.

As a result, the sum of the journalistic work is simultaneously heartless, cruel and intelligence-insulting. And it always comes wrapped in shiny packaging, asking you to clap in awe and admire the wonder of something — in this case, the precocious child enrolled at an upper class school in Cupertino, CA. (Its presence in the story serves to underline only how stunning opportunities, spoil and resources are mostly only in those places now in the high end of our economic ecosystem.)

The CBS news piece, complete with video, reads:

Born to Chinese immigrants, 17-year-old Angela Zhang of Cupertino, California is a typical American teenager. She’s really into shoes and is just learning how to drive.

But there is one thing that separates her from every other student at Monta Vista High School, something she first shared with her chemistry teacher, Kavita Gupta.

It’s a research paper Angela wrote in her spare time — and it is advanced, to say the least. Gupta says all she knows is its recipe — for curing cancer.

“Cure for cancer — a high school student,” said Gupta. “It’s just so mind-boggling. I just cannot even begin to comprehend how she even thought about it or did this.”

News of cancer cured, delivered in five to six hundred words, courtesy of the wealth and genius of the human DNA in the Silicon Valley.

Where humble or circumspect are not words found in the dictionary.

Of course, the young girl is cute as a button. There simply would be no other way to present it.

And it is certainly newsworthy that she has won a remarkable prize of $100,000 from the Siemens corporation for her science project.

“Angela’s idea was to mix cancer medicine in a polymer that would attach to nanoparticles — nanoparticles that would then attach to cancer cells and show up on an MRI so doctors could see exactly where the tumors are,” the piece informs.

“Then she thought shat if you aimed an infrared light at the tumors to melt the polymer and release the medicine, thus killing the cancer cells while leaving healthy cells completely unharmed.”

Attaching dyes, poisons and other reagents to malignant cells has been a vigorously pursued avenue of research since … I graduated from Lehigh University in the mid-Eighties.

However, while conceptually simple, the complexities of the genesis and biochemistry of cancer cells and how they spread in the human system remains unconquered.

Infrared light? And how does one get that and the chemotherapeutic agents into a place where there are multiple sites of malignancy, like deep inside the skull?

Or what if the particular cancer being treated just doesn’t care much if bathed in even the most toxic agents because, somehow, it’s aggressively self-repairing?

Well, one could write a book about such things and cancer would still not be finished. In fact, I recall walls of bookshelves upon walls of bookshelves on the matter in the library at the Penn State School of Medicine many years ago.

“It’ll take years to know if it works in humans — but in mice — the tumors almost completely disappeared,” adds the CBS newsman.

Of course, you can cure lots of things in mice. Mice are pretty lucky. Or maybe not, if you read and dig down a little.


  1. Chuck said,

    January 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    This past year, I’ve lost four freinds and relatives to the big “C”. None was particularly old, so the old argument about it being a geriatric disease just doesn’t hold up.

    I suppose living in the chemical soup of today has a lot to do with it. I certainly don’t recall cancer treatment being a big business 40 years ago.

    What do you think, George?

  2. George Smith said,

    January 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    It wasn’t. However, it was a growing cloud by the time I was in grad school. More and more people were getting touched by it, some having to do with improved diagnosis. Previously, some people had just died after a very brief illness that had been poorly diagnosed.

    Environment certainly has had a big impact. Not only chemical insult but also habits and diet. Esophageal cancer has exploded and there are a number of ideas floating to explain it, having something to do with a combination of lifestyle, diet and environmental stresses common to people in the west. Drinking, having chronic acid reflux from a standard US diet and job stress, genetic familial dispositions …

    Pasadena lives under the smoke column from the superhighway that bisects it. This inhalation of oil/grease/rubber aerosols over decades must have some effect on susceptible individuals.

    There are solid genetic markers for various cancers now. This is well understood with regards to breast cancer. A certain genomic marker is very bad and women with it are faced with tough prophylactic choices. They do not all get cancer but the odds are really bad.

    Viruses are certainly implicated or are thought to contribute to about fifteen percent of all cancers.

    Cancers are hardly exclusively age related. But some are seen far more the
    older the patient and rarely seen in the young. Still, “rarely” is only a relative term. My dad, for instance, was “young” for the cancer he got, even though it was linked to his smoking habit. “Young” for a malignancy that skews older often means “bad prognosis.”