Among the many medical miracles produced by science over the years, vaccines and antibiotics have undoubtedly saved the most lives.
They have been so successful in particular because they boost the body's natural defense mechanisms that nature has evolved, for millions of years.
"Current approaches to treating cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation, undermine the highly evolved human immune system by indiscriminately destroying healthy and diseased cells alike," says Craig Dees, Ph.D., CEO of Provectus Pharmaceuticals whose research lab is taking this different approach to fighting cancer.
Dees believes that in order to become both safer and more effective, cancer therapies need to take the natural approach and engage the immune system's anti-cancer defenses. "As radical as it may sound, we need to treat cancer like an infectious disease," said Dees.
Provecta(TM)(PV-10), an injectable small-molecule agent being studied by Provectus, has been shown to have an almost absolute specificity for tumor cells. Provecta is capable of solely penetrating diseased cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed because the drug is able to distinguish the fundamental difference in the solubility of cancerous and non-cancerous cell membranes.
The drug is created from a synthetic compound called Rose Bengal, a stain or dye often used by eye doctors to find bad blood vessels. Rose Bengal has been around for decades. Dees and his team believe when it's used in cancer patients, it can rev up the body's immune system to help seek and destroy diseased cells.
"After the injected tumor has been destroyed, the immune system soon gains a heightened awareness of these cancerous cells, and begins a search for similar cells throughout the body to destroy," explains Dees.
Once trapped in a cancerous cell's membrane, Provecta causes the cell's lysosomes (which contain digestive enzymes that cause cell destruction) to leak or rupture. The cancer cell is then quickly destroyed from within. As an added "bonus", Provecta has been shown to trigger an immune system response (coined the "bystander effect"), leading the body to battle tumors that have spread from the injected site.
Clinical trials for metastatic melanoma and recurrent breast carcinomas are currently underway.