This chemotherapy-free treatment could be a breakthrough in the fight against cancer.

Cancer. Just saying the word on its own can be scary, especially if you've ever lost a loved one to the disease or if you've faced it yourself.

And a big reason for that has to do with one of its common treatments — chemotherapy — which causes intense side effects like hair loss, nausea, and weakened immune systems. (And that's when it works!)

But a new breakthrough treatment cured cancerous tumors in 97% of mice during recent trials at Stanford University. Now researchers are soliciting around 35 human patients for tests that are expected to begin before the end of 2018.


Unlike other cancer treatments, this immune-system-based approach is potentially low-impact, avoiding chemotherapy altogether.

"The thing to understand is how much of a game changer this is," said Dr. Michelle Hermiston, director of pediatric immunotherapy at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, the first hospital in the state to implement a different immunotherapy treatment for lymphoma and leukemia patients. "If it's your kid, it makes a huge difference," she said.

Dr. Ronald Levy, a Stanford oncology professor who is leading the study, said that if the Food and Drug Administration approves the treatment after human trials, it could appear on the market within one to two years.

This chemotherapy-free treatment uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer cells.

Levy says the treatment is not a permanent cure, but it uses the body's defense mechanisms to attack certain types of cancer cells.

It works by using an injection that stimulates the body's T cells to attack tumors. Levy also said the current treatment is not a magic bullet for all types of cancers because different cancer cells behave differently. For this study, he and his team are focusing on people with low-grade lymphoma.

"Getting the immune system to fight cancer is one of the most recent developments in cancer," he said. "People need to know that this is in its early days, and we are still looking for safety and looking to make this as good as it can be."

In an era of bad news, scientists have reminded us how to be hopeful.

An estimated 7.6 million people die from cancer each year. More than 70,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma each year, and while survival rates are relatively high, any progress on that front is great news. And during a time when our world can often feel overwhelmed with bad news, it's a welcome reminder that scientific progress continues to march forward.

This week alone, scientists announced the discovery of an entirely new organ in the human body, a development that could fundamentally alter our understanding of how diseases like cancer quickly spread to other parts of the body.

If we pay attention, science is bringing us good news practically every day with amazing progress in medicine, technology, exploration, and a greater understanding of human nature itself.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less