As Vice co-founder Shane Smith notes in his introduction to Killing Cancer, the disease has likely impacted every person in the world, either by suffering from it personally or watching a loved one battle it. And so this special report into the latest treatment breakthroughs, which prompted $2 million (USD) in donations, offers hope to all of us while asking... could cancer be cured in our lifetime?
Using a virus to attack cancer
The key to stopping cancer in its tracks seems to be the use of viruses to fight the disease. As we learn, this isn’t a new concept, but one that stretches back more than a century. It’s only recently, however, that researchers have seen real progress with the use of genetically modified viruses that seek out and destroy cancer cells like heat-seeking missiles, but will not otherwise harm us.
Unprecedented access to treatments
Killing Cancer doesn’t just give us the theory – it takes us inside laboratories and treatment centres to show a virus being genetically engineered and then administered during trials. We meet two men undergoing measles therapy, which means they are being injected with a measles vaccine with the hope that it will attack their cancer. There’s good reason for optimism, since Stacy Erholtz, another patient in an earlier phase of the trial, had a miraculous recovery from some heavy duty cancer throughout her body.
The risks are still massive
While stories of the complete eradication of cancer in patients are cause for celebration, these procedures and treatments are still in the experimental stage. We go into the operating room as one man’s brain tumour is treated by injecting a strain of the common cold virus into a hole that’s drilled into his head. It’s full on, but what you realise watching Killing Cancer is that you don’t overcome cancer by doing things by halves.
The biggest breakthrough of all?
Some of the most remarkable cases we hear about in Killing Cancer come from a trial that used a modified version of the HIV virus. That’s right, HIV – the other most terrifying disease of our time. While the use of the virus that leads to AIDS does not infect the patients with HIV, the strain they are infused with does seem to provoke a phenomenally effective and rapid response in patients.
It’s results like these that provide a glimmer of hope that we will one day soon win the battle against cancer.
Watch Killing Cancer on Thursday 14 December at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND.