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Friday, March 14, 2014

New Series: Selected works

So, since I never write anymore, I'm gonna do something that I think is awesome. It's called Selected Works. Basically, I'm gonna post my essays for school that I think are pretty awesome. Feel Free to critique.

Selected Works, Episode I
Angiogensis Inhibitors 
Class: Bio 199
Assignment: 700-900 word essay on the documentary "cancer warriors"
Grade Received: 99/100

The History and Development of Endostatin as an Angiogenesis Inhibitor
Joshua A Pillow
Brigham Young University- Idaho
                When the US military developed its first nuclear submarine, they were faced with the problem of how to store blood long-term. At the time, human blood could not be stored for more than three weeks, which was significantly shorter than the 6 months that nuclear submarines were to be deployed. The military recruited several physicians to research the viability of reconstituted RBCs. While the experiment with reconstituted RBCs was successful, one of the physicians working on the project, Dr. Judah Folkman, made an observation, and that observation has led to possible improvements in the treatment of cancer: Angiogenesis Inhibitors.
                While working on the RBC project with the US military, Dr. Folkman added tumor cells to the thyroid gland that was being experimented on. He observed that the cells did not grow any larger. Thinking that they might be dead, he extracted the cells and put them in a mouse, where they immediately began to grow again. Dr. Folkman was curious about what would cause this. As he continued through his career as a surgeon, he noticed that every time he would remove a tumor from a patient, the tumor would be unusually bloody and be surrounded by blood vessels. This lead Dr. Folkman to hypothesize that cancer cells produced a protein that causes blood vessels to form around the tumor, giving it enough blood to grow rapidly. This idea was almost universally rejected. In order to prove that angiogenesis (the process of growing new blood vessels) was real, he devised an experiment. He placed a small sample of a tumor in the cornea of a rat’s eye. Because the cornea contains no blood vessels, this would prove that the presence of blood vessels around tumors was not coincidence. Not long after planting the tumor into the rat’s cornea, blood vessels began growing into the cornea towards the tumor. Immediately, the doubters turned into colleagues.
                The next task then turned to identifying the individual protein complex that caused the angiogenesis. It took over ten years before the protein was identified. They proved that it was the correct protein by placing a packet of it in a rat’s cornea, simulating the effect of a tumor cell, causing angiogenesis. Now that the researchers knew what was causing the angiogenesis, they needed to identify a way of combating it. They thought about bone marrow: because bone marrow contains blood vessels early on, but quickly loses all of its blood vessels, they figured that the answer to angiogenesis inhibitors must be hidden in the proteins of bone marrow. Researchers spent countless hours scraping bone marrow from bovine bones, and searching for an angiogenesis inhibitor. Eventually, they found one. The then placed a packet of the protein that caused the angiogenesis inside a cornea along with a packet containing the inhibitor. Blood vessels began growing, but stopped once they reached the inhibitor packet.
                Next came the search for an angiogenesis inhibiter that worked more often. One researcher found one in a drug that was used a few decades earlier, Thalidomide. When Thalidomide was metabolized and then placed in a chicken embryo, the blood vessels in the chicken embryo bypassed the area when the Thalidomide was placed, proving that it is an angiogenesis inhibitor. Researchers then turned to developing new inhibitors, and eventually landed with Endostatin. Like other angiogenesis inhibitors, Endostatin differs from traditional chemotherapy in that it isn’t a poison- it simply stops the tumors from growing new blood vessels, limiting their ability to grow.            
                Endostatin when into stage I trials. There were thousands of people who signed up to receive the treatment. One of those picked was Duane Gray, who had advanced stage lung cancer. Duane, as well as 14 other participants in the stage I trial, were removed after their cancer grew beyond the guidelines set for trial. Sadly, he passed away from his cancer in 2009.

                Through all three phases of the trials, Endostatin proved to be only marginally effective as a monotherapeutic treatment for various cancers; however, it did prove extremely valuable in one criteria: unlike traditional chemotherapy, the cancer cells were unable to mutate a resistance to the Endostatin, which has always been a major cause of the overall ineffectiveness of traditional chemotherapy. Research on Endostatin still continues, and has expanded to include various other fields such as autoimmune diseases like arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. 

Next week: Selected Works, Episode II: Neuropsychiatry: Because Psychologists are Losers

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