From four-pound hammer to smart molecules – on cancer treatments

You can kill house flies by hitting them with a four-pound hammer.  Often you will miss so you have to keep smashing to get a single fly.  The collateral damage to the inside of your home can be very serious, worse than having a fly around. If you own a china shop, killing flies this way could put you out of business.  A similar situation exists with two of the three mainline approaches to treating many cancers – radiation therapy and chemotherapy.  These decades-old “hammer” approaches use brute force to kill cancer cells, namely by poisoning cancer cells via chemotherapy or destroying their internal structures via intense X-radiation.  The collateral damage to normal cells may take years off a person’s expected lifetime.  If you have a compromised immune system, killing a cancer this way could put you out of business.   Historically, for many cancers there were no alternative approaches.  Now there are “adjunctive therapies” available, new drugs and ones just coming out of the pipeline that work smarter taking advantage of new knowledge such as angiogenesis inhibitors and cancer cell telomerase inhibitors.  But the brute force approaches of surgery, radiation oncology and chemotherapy still rule the roost in most cancer treatment centers.

A growing number of researchers in centers pursuing molecular biology approaches to cancer treatment, such as at the University of Michigan, the University of Pittsburgh and Duke University, are pursuing the vision that these “hammer” approaches can eventually be supplanted by biochemical and stem-cell approaches that are non-invasive and do not inflict collateral damage on healthy tissues. 

First, I need comment that the best approach to defense against having cancers is to not have them develop in the first place.  This can be facilitated by creating conditions in the body where cancers don’t develop or are nipped in the bud by your immune system.  Cells are constantly mutating, occasionally into precancerous forms.  Does your body’s biochemical signaling system identify any precancerous cells and signal the immune system to go after them or force these deviant cells to kill themselves (apoptosis)?  If so, you may never experience an overt cancer.   See the Section on cancer in my anti-aging firewalls treatise and the associated cancer firewall discussion for ways to help ward off cancers.   

Here is a small sample of some of the research on less brute-force cancer therapies:

One new avenue of cancer treatment research is based on a recent discovery that there are cancer stem cells for many kinds of cancers which fuel the proliferation of regular cancer cells of the same kind.  Research teams at the University of Michigan are studying cancer stem cells in many different types of cancer – including adrenal, breast, colon, head and neck, leukemia, lung, melanoma, myeloma, pancreatic, prostate and thyroid cancers.  The idea is to discover genetics-based and bio-molecular therapies which go after and kill the cancer stem cells, turning off the source of new cancer cells. “New therapies designed to target stem cells could eliminate cancer without the risks and side effects of current treatments that also destroy healthy cells in the body. Destroying cancer stem cells in the original tumor could reduce the risk of deadly metastasis, where malignant cells move from the primary tumor to other places in the body. Finally, by killing the cells driving the tumor’s growth, treatments targeted at cancer stem cells could eliminate recurrences of the disease.”     At the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, research is being pursued on the combination of two different biotherapies for patients with inoperable melanoma, the most serious and potentially deadly form of skin cancer. A combination of two biotherapies that stimulate the immune system to fight cancer was found to be promising in terms of anti-tumor effectiveness and tolerable in terms of toxicity. The therapies are high-dose interferon alfa-2b, a standard treatment for metastatic skin cancer, and tremelimumab, an antibody thought to instigate the body’s immune system to attack tumors.  These were reported to be combined for the first time in a phase 2 clinical trial and larger trials are planned.  The main cure for melonama now is surgery and some cases of melanoma are inoperable and death sentences.  At Duke University, another team has gone after a biomolecular approach to treatment of a rare and therapy-resistant type of melanoma that originates in the eye and spreads to other organs.  The researchers think that interferon gamma, an immune system protein together with decitabine, which can turn on certain genes in cancer cells, might work together to induce these kinds of melanoma cells to die.  If their hopes work out, the result could be a therapy for an otherwise untreatable and possibly fatal condition. Many brain cancers , glioblastoma in particular, are sure-fire killers with the best available therapies able to add only a few months to a patient’s life.  Researchers at Duke University have suggested that glioma stem cells, brain cancer stem cells, promote angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) in brain tumors, and that targeting these cells may be good approach to treating gliomas. 

Also, curcumin, a very important substance in the anti-cancer firewall, has been shown to act powerfully against glioblastoma cells.   (Research references can be found by searching in Pubmed using the terms glioblastoma and curcumin).  In fact, curcumin acts powerfully against several cancer types, as does resveratrol and certain other phyto-substances in the anti-cancer firewall. 

I have mentioned just a few of many current research developments that in time will likely replace most uses of radiation and chemotherapy for treatment of cancers. They are all examples of seeking to replace the hammer approach with safe uses of smart molecules.

About Vince Giuliano

Being a follower, connoisseur, and interpreter of longevity research is my latest career. I have been at this part-time for well over a decade, and in 2007 this became my mainline activity. In earlier reincarnations of my career. I was founding dean of a graduate school and a university professor at the State University of New York, a senior consultant working in a variety of fields at Arthur D. Little, Inc., Chief Scientist and C00 of Mirror Systems, a software company, and an international Internet consultant. I got off the ground with one of the earliest PhD's from Harvard in a field later to become known as computer science. Because there was no academic field of computer science at the time, to get through I had to qualify myself in hard sciences, so my studies focused heavily on quantum physics. In various ways I contributed to the Computer Revolution starting in the 1950s and the Internet Revolution starting in the late 1980s. I am now engaged in doing the same for The Longevity Revolution. I have published something like 200 books and papers as well as over 430 substantive.entries in this blog, and have enjoyed various periods of notoriety. If you do a Google search on Vincent E. Giuliano, most if not all of the entries on the first few pages that come up will be ones relating to me. I have a general writings site at and an extensive site of my art at Please note that I have recently changed my mailbox to
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