I'm not a biologist but I have an idea for a cure for cancer and it is very simple and probably has flaws (if it worked it probrably wouldn't be a cure for all) or is not possible but ... I'm still going to ask why because I want to learn why it doesn't work and I want to learn more in general, so you can use all the biology terms you like. The idea is essentially to use a virus and manipulate/change it (this would be mechanized if it were to be mass produced and the type of virus is unknown to me because you want one that is fast growing and goes across only specific parts of the body depending on the cancer). This virus would not have any bad parts (parts that make you sick) to it because when the virus "injects" it's DNA or manipulates the existing for copying it would instead manipulate the DNA in the cell it is going into to have growth limits and other cancer genes that are set to being back to normal and then copy itself. Eventually it would be fought off by the immune system and most of the virus would be gone (along with the cancer) because this virus would last for a long period of time (week(s)).

I appreciate anyone who answers this question because I'm sure it sounds stupid from your perspective but this is the place to learn.

Thanks, Jackson

Note: This is not an idea I'm trying to make, obviously, I just couldn't get it off my mind and wanted to see what is wrong and if it is fixable.


closed as too broad by canadianer, AliceD, March Ho, rg255, MattDMo Jul 18 '15 at 1:33

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ It's called an oncolytic virus. Hint: in the future, avoid rambling and run-on sentences and parenthetical comments, and re-read your question before submitting it so it is coherent and understandable. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jul 17 '15 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, but my idea is different because mine doesn't kill the cancer cell because I don't know how it would tell the difference; mine just manipulates the DNA. $\endgroup$ – Jackson H Jul 17 '15 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ This is a very broad question. You've basically described viral gene therapy which is a great idea but has many complications that are yet to be solved. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Jul 17 '15 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ What are some of the complications? $\endgroup$ – Jackson H Jul 17 '15 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ @JacksonH google "viral gene therapy complications" and learn for yourself! $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jul 17 '15 at 2:09

This is not an idea I'm trying to make, obviously, I just couldn't get it off my mind and wanted to see what is wrong and if it is fixable.

Since everybody else is giving you a bad attitude in the comments...

While it might work for some cancers, it is completely impractical for the majority of cancers.

SOME cancers do occur because of a specific mutation or specific set of mutations. Some genes predispose people to greater risk for certain cancers. These have a much greater chance of being treatable via viral therapy, but there are still barriers:

  • The length of coding material (DNA or RNA) a retrovirus can hold and propagate is limited. The mutated gene or stretch of DNA may be much larger than the length a retrovirus could potentially replace.

  • The retroviral material is not guaranteed to "rewrite" or "overwrite" any bad DNA. Retroviral DNA is inserted fairly randomly into the host genome with little regard for where since it is generally an entire gene meant to be read in its entirety to eventually produce proteins. You'd expect BOTH gene versions to exist simultaneously. This wouldn't end in a cure, but some middleground between cured and affected.

  • There are tissues where cancers develop that wouldn't be infected. Any sort of brain tumor would remain completely untouched by retroviral therapy, for example.

  • Targeting specific cancerous tissues while leaving surrounding or other tissues alone is a big problem, even for non-retroviral therapies. Replacing bad genes in a cancerous cell is good, but replacing good genes in a healthy cell could lead to that cell's death or -- ironically -- possibly turn it into a cancerous cell as well.

The majority of cancers are not specific mutations and do not have known genes that predispose their bearers. The majority are an accumulation of mutations across sections of the genome. As MattDMo said in the comments (paraphrased): For these cancers, viral therapy is nearly impossible. Every mutated gene would required its own retrovirus. At that point, the time and financial investments start to rise exponentially.

While I'm not one to say it's impossible (I'm not involved in the research, so if anybody who is can correct me on anything in this post, I'd appreciate it) -- it is certainly very improbable with current knowledge and methods. Every bullet point above (which isn't an exhaustive list) represents a mountain to climb on hands and knees before an "inject-and-forget" end product could be developed.

Kudos for the critical thinking and forming a working theory from the knowledge you had, but unfortunately it does break down with some more specialized information.

  • $\begingroup$ I would up vote your answer but I don't have enough reputation. $\endgroup$ – Jackson H Jul 17 '15 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Retroviral or lentiviral insertion doesn't have to be random - you could load your viral particles with the components of the CRISPR system, assuming the fix you want to make is small. You could also try this method. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jul 18 '15 at 1:39

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