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Old 11th January 2019, 07:53 PM   #1
casebro
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Breed parasites to eat tumors?

I think a few generations of feeding tumors to parasites might breed some beneficial parasites.

Was it 40 generations for a Soviet research to breed foxes into dogs? How many generations for Mendel's peas?

How fast does trichinosis multiply? Would a tennis ball sized tumor last long enough to raise a herd of predators fast enough to go back in and eat the patients other tumors? um, leeches for colon cancers? No, needs to be blood borne for metastatic stuff.

We wouldn't have to know what the bugs like about the tumors, they'll 'learn to like it" when it is the only thing on the menu.
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Old 12th January 2019, 09:51 AM   #2
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What happens when it's not the only thing on the menua/


" Oh wait ! This nearby grey matter stuff is much tastier that this tumor stuff I've been force fed! "
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Old 12th January 2019, 11:01 AM   #3
casebro
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Originally Posted by Skeptical Greg View Post
What happens when it's not the only thing on the menu/


" Oh wait ! This nearby grey matter stuff is much tastier that this tumor stuff I've been force fed! "
Zombie Apocalypse?

I don't think Trichinosis gets into brains. But I didn't want to get that particular, I just wanted to kick the ball around.

Current chemo is based on biologicals. I suspect the research that brough those treatments to market started by finding an enzyme that prefers tumors. And they probably found THAT by feeding tumors to selected germs, finding one that had that preference, then finding what about that germ 'ate' tumors. I'm just wondering if we could up-scale to bugs instead of germs.

My brother had the germ vs cancer thought rolling around in his head for a while. Ever since he had a raging infection in his liver. Turned out to be Fusobacterium from an abscessed tooth. Once the antibiotics did their job, tumors sprang up. He has been wondering if the germ was attacking the tumors, keeping them at bay. I know some of the spontaneous remissions happen after an infection, and the pros figure the infection trigger an immune system upsurge that attacked the tumor too. Bro and I wonder if the germs were the attacker? Are antibiotics causing an up-surge in cancer? You would need a population that has never had antibiotics to form one arm of the study. Hard to find today.
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Last edited by casebro; 12th January 2019 at 11:06 AM. Reason: Fusobacterium sp
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Old 12th January 2019, 01:01 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post

My brother had the germ vs cancer thought rolling around in his head for a while. Ever since he had a raging infection in his liver. Turned out to be Fusobacterium from an abscessed tooth. Once the antibiotics did their job, tumors sprang up. He has been wondering if the germ was attacking the tumors, keeping them at bay. I know some of the spontaneous remissions happen after an infection, and the pros figure the infection trigger an immune system upsurge that attacked the tumor too. Bro and I wonder if the germs were the attacker? Are antibiotics causing an up-surge in cancer? You would need a population that has never had antibiotics to form one arm of the study. Hard to find today.
No offense to your brother, who clearly needs sympathy, but you might consider the timing. If "the germ was attacking the tumors", this implies that the tumors began forming before the antibiotics were applied. Furthermore, it would seem that the abcess was exquisitely timed, providing "eater" germs exactly at the same time that the tumors began to develop. If this is true, it seems much more likely that the germs caused the tumors, not the antibiotics.

This, in turn, suggests that antibiotics would be prophylactic for cancer, by nipping infections in the bud before they can trigger tumors.

Which is not, so far as I know, indicated by any evidence.

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Old 12th January 2019, 01:39 PM   #5
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Given that trichinella can occupy skeletal muscle and almost every organ in the body it's probably not the model parasite for this mission.

Last edited by Venom; 12th January 2019 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 12th January 2019, 04:24 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Venom View Post
Given that trichinella can occupy skeletal muscle and almost every organ in the body it's probably not the model parasite for this mission.
I just picked a parasite I knew of. But it sounds like a good place to start- we'll want it to eat tumors wherever they are.
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Old 12th January 2019, 10:24 PM   #7
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There are therapies to train the immune system to better identify cancer cells.
Why hire a dubious mercenary force when your own Police can deal with the issue with a bit of help?

Note: the problem with modern treatments isn't that they aren't effective, but that they are hard on the liver.
Having parasites inside you wouldn't help with that.
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Old 13th January 2019, 01:20 AM   #8
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I think you'd want to feed your parasites both healthy and tumourous tissue and then breed those strains that preferentially eat the tumourous tissue. In the next generation do the same thing (there may not be any that preferentially eat tumourous tissue initially, nor any increase from one generation to the next but at some point hopefully some mutuation will be useful, and things like radiation might be used to increase the mutation rate if no progress is being made. There are probably more innovative ways to break down the pathway into smaller steps that might also improve the chances of hitting on mutations that take us in the right direction). Over time and done in the right way I can see that you might be able to breed an organism that would ignore healthy tissue and seek out tumourous tissue and feed on it.

Once you've managed to breed said organism you will have to continue the selection process, otherwise it will quickly begin to evolve away from this state.

Then when you have a cancer patient you infect them with the parasite. After the treatment time you give them a course of antibiotics to kill the parasite (as again given time a mutation that allows it to feed on healthy tissue is possible and would be selected for within the environment of a human host).

You would certainly want to choose an organism that is susceptible to antibiotics (or some other relatively easy treatment method) for this line of research.

Of course I'm only agreeing that it might work. There are no guarantees here. Nor is it clear how much time and effort would be necessary to bring this from it's initial stages to a useful treatment.
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Last edited by Roboramma; 13th January 2019 at 01:23 AM.
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Old 13th January 2019, 05:59 AM   #9
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How about breeding sharks to perform amputations? Or molds to grow on people's scalps to replace hair?
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Old 13th January 2019, 06:38 AM   #10
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Cool ideas, but probably not worth the effort...
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Old 13th January 2019, 07:56 PM   #11
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Could there be a parasite that could eat up all the cancer in a few minutes like an animal that eats up a whole thing right there as you are watching?
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Old 14th January 2019, 02:07 AM   #12
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Forget parasites.
Breed a cocktail of rapidly multiplying tumor eating bacteria, starting with the ones that cause necrotizing fasciitis.
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Old 14th January 2019, 02:24 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
Could there be a parasite that could eat up all the cancer in a few minutes like an animal that eats up a whole thing right there as you are watching?
wouldn't the resulting internal haemorrhaging cause problems?
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Old 14th January 2019, 03:59 AM   #14
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Only if you don't remember to train the parasites to clamp their jaws down on any hemorrhaging blood vessels before they die. Easy-peasy.
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Old 14th January 2019, 03:02 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Note: the problem with modern treatments isn't that they aren't effective, but that they are hard on the liver.

They are hard on everything. The biggest problem with developing cancer remedies has been finding one that kills the tumours sufficiently faster than it does the rest of the cells.

That's the big problem with parasites as well. Tumour cells are simply undifferentiated tissue, that is close enough to all other tissues that a parasite isn't likely to be able to differentiate sufficiently between the undifferentiated tumour and the differentiated organ/muscle tissues, and would easily transition from eating tumours to eating everything.
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Old 15th January 2019, 12:42 AM   #16
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Just to chime in. The problem with cancerous cells is that unlike, say, foreign organisms like bacteria or fungi, they are essentially your own cells plus a mutation or two. There isn't a whole lot of difference between how they work and how a normal cell works. That's what allows some of them to be ignored entirely by the immune system.

So before you sic anything onto them, first you have to figure out a very specific protein or reaction that you want to trigger. It's not as simple as the difference between eating healthy tissue and eating dead tissue.

Parasites won't help you much there, because basically they lack the mechanisms to target specific proteins only. They eat basically whatever the hell they can get. You'd need extensive genetic engineering before they even have a selective palate at all, and that's before you even tune that on a specific protein.

Viruses might help you more, because they already bind to very specific protein configurations. Downside, it won't help you much if the malformed protein isn't on the cell surface. And really it won't. Or it won't even exist, because the cell has actually underwent a borked DNA repair, and what happens is that it runs actual code as a telomere. The problem there is that you don't even have a mutated portion of DNA, or not always, it's just a perfectly good protein blueprint at the end of the chromosome is treated as a telomere. If anything it has some MISSING DNA, rather than mutated DNA.

Bacteria, again, probably won't help much.

But luckily your body has a perfectly good way of locking onto specific protein configurations itself, in the immune system. If you actually figure out what mutant protein you want to attack, well, you can basically immunize the dude against it. You don't need to engineer parasites to do that job, when you have a perfectly good alternative already built in.

And in fact, we even know of a wildcard one: telomerase.

See, cells have a built-in maximum division counter, in the telomeres. Each time your cell divides, the counter goes down by one, so to speak. It reaches zero, the cell can't divide any more. Enough cells reach zero, and more and more damage can't be repaired by dividing cells, and eventually you die of old age.

BUT when you make a baby, it can't start with your division counters, or it might die of old age before it even gets out of the womb. Enter telomerase, which basically resets the counter.

Before you get carried away with it being a cure for old age (which, really, it is) telomeres are also what keeps herpes or a few mutations from killing you. Herpes makes cells divide out of control too, for example. Luckily it doesn't reset the cell division counters, so eventually infected cells stop dividing. If you were marinated in telomerase to be immune to aging, the first HPV virus would kill you in the same way cancer does.

Anyway, about 95% of cancers involve uncontrolled expression of telomerase, so they can keep dividing indefinitely.

And if you could get immunized AGAINST telomerase, which seems possible, you could get rid of about that number of cancers.

Mind you, the effects would be pretty nasty, plus you could kiss goodbye the idea of ever having kids, but if you've got a terminal case of cancer, it might just stop it.
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Old 15th January 2019, 01:14 AM   #17
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One of the points of the idea is that we don't need to figure out what the parasite is using the tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy cells. We just let it develop that ability through selection, we can be blind to how it is doing it, we only need to know that it's doing it, and then select those that are better at it, until we have an organism that has reached some threshold level of discimination that we consider viable for therapeutic uses.

I agree that the organism have some pre-evolved method of disciminating one type of tissue from another is necessary, but anything that eats must be able, through some sort of chemistry, to tell the difference between food and non-food. That should be enough to begin the process of selection with, though you are right that there's no guarantee that distinction between cancerous tissue and healthy tissue will be susceptible to analysis by a particular organism.

There's also an issue of whether or not all patient's cancers would be be the same chemically. If they aren't susceptible to the same criteria of differentiating them from healthy tissue as whatever the tissue was used for the selective breeding process of the organism, it's not going to work.

I don't actually think this is a viable research program, but it is a fun idea.
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Old 15th January 2019, 04:23 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
I agree that the organism have some pre-evolved method of disciminating one type of tissue from another is necessary, but anything that eats must be able, through some sort of chemistry, to tell the difference between food and non-food.

Koinobionts are what you need!


They develop in the host without damaging important organs.


I only now of parasitoid wasps that develop in insect hosts though.
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Old 16th January 2019, 12:26 AM   #19
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As has been mentioned upthread viruses make most sense as they already bind to specific molecules on cells, and most cancer cells do express specific cancer associated proteins on the cancerous cell surface. Some viruses kill infected cells. Herpes viruses are being used.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904234/
Adapted TB bacteria (BCG) are used to treat bladder cancer. On a bigger scale blow fly larva (maggots) are used to remove dead tissue in ulcers. They do not eat living tissue.

Drug treatment of cancer is of three main types. Antibiotics; technically these are substances extracted from living organisms, taxols from yew plants or vinca alkaloids from periwinkles. Poisons are identified, their mechanism of toxicity identified and then uses found and the poisons altered to make them more specific. Chemotherapy sensu stricto is an entirely artificial chemical made in the laboratory such as platinum based chemotherapy, these are usually specifically designed to target cancer cells de novo, but may be chemicals designed for other purposes which are found to have a useful toxicity. Finally there are biologicals, these are of two sorts immunotherapy designed to stimulate the bodies own immune system to attack cancer cells (there are some anti-cancer vaccines) and chemicals designed to block specific cancer metabolic pathways, tyrosine kinase inhibitors are very effective at stopping the growth of some cancers, but they do not cure cancer, and it recurs if the treatment is stopped.
http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.o...uppl_3/20.full

A nice set of chemicals (chemotherapy) are trimethoprim an antibacterial chemotherapy, maloprim an antimalarial drug, and methotrexate an anticancer drug. They all have the same action blocking a chemical (a folate reductase enzyme), but changes in the basic chemical makes it more specific for the bacterial, malarial or human enzyme. Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells so are slightly more sensitive to these type of anti-metabolic drugs than normal cells. Cancer drugs rely on the subtle differences between normal and cancer cells.

No cancer drugs are developed by breeding bacteria. Viruses used are all GMOs. The problem with breeding killer cancer eating bacteria is that they will mutate, a small mutation would switch them from eating cancer to eating the rest of you. The second problem is that they would need to evade the immune system, which would normally try to kill invading bacteria (or parasites). I strongly suggest that deliberately breeding a parasite that eats human flesh and is able to evade the immune system might be the last thing mankind does. If one used GMO techniques one can at least engineer in death genes, make the parasite dependant on specific nutrients not normally available in humans, and possibly make them infertile.

(Although antibiotic is used commonly to mean an anti-bacterial drug it strictly refers to the original source, there are anti-cancer antibiotics and anti-infective antibiotics; equally there are anti-infective chemotherapy agents and anti-cancer chemotherapy.)
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Old 16th January 2019, 12:35 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
Koinobionts are what you need!


They develop in the host without damaging important organs.


I only now of parasitoid wasps that develop in insect hosts though.
I think the host is killed by parasitoid wasps; a case of the cure being worse than the disease?
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Old 16th January 2019, 01:26 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Planigale View Post
I think the host is killed by parasitoid wasps; a case of the cure being worse than the disease?

Not really.
The host is as healthy as it can be filled with sometimes thousands of wasp larvae, and it keeps moving around and feeding, vital organs intact ... until they hatch.



In some species when the wasps are ready to pupate they (all but one or two) exit the host and spin cocoons.
The ones that stay behind cause the caterpillar to change it's behaviour, it stops feeding, huddles over the wasp cocoons and protects them from predators, aggressively lashing out. It basically starves to death protecting the wasps.
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