Benevolent Viruses Working to Detect Cancer (English)


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Recorded on October 8, 2013.

Gregory Weiss, Ph.D. and Reginald M. Penner, Ph.D.

During the last 38 years, cancer treatment has improved greatly, and today, many cancers can be completely cured when they are discovered early, in stages 0 or 1. 

The problem is that, regardless of where the primary cancer occurs in our bodies – lungs, prostate gland, bladder, breasts, etc. – early stage cancers are so small that they produce no symptoms and cannot be seen by X-rays.  In view of this fact, you may be surprised to learn that when your blood and urine are tested during annual physical exams, no tests for cancer are performed.*  So we only rarely detect cancer at its earliest stages, when it can be most easily cured.  This research focuses on solving this problem.

What if you could test yourself for cancer?  Professors Penner and Weiss are developing a new technology for making cheap, disposable, and highly sensitive biosensors capable of detecting cancer in urine and blood.  One goal of their research is to develop a version of this biosensor that resembles a home pregnancy test.  You buy this “wand” over-the-counter in a drug store, pee on it, and it indicates immediately whether you could have early stage cancer of the prostate, bladder, kidneys or perhaps just a urinary tract infection (the symptoms for these are indistinguishable). 

Believe it or not – the key to this technology are benevolent viruses that are engineered to capture specific molecules in your blood or urine that are flags for cancer.  Why viruses?  Well, it’s a long story that Drs. Penner and Weiss would like to share with you in this lecture


Author:
Gregory Alan Weiss
Title:
Professor
Department:
Chemistry
Author:
Reginald Penner
Title:
Chancellor's Professor
Department:
Chemistry
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