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Medicine Science

Cure For Radiation Sickness Found? 385

Summit writes "A scientist has claimed to have discovered a radioprotectant that all but eliminates acute radiation sickness even in cases of lethal doses of radiation in tests on rats and monkeys, when injected up to 72 hours after exposure. They also claim the drug, a protein, has no observed negative effects in humans. They have not irradiated any people just yet, but if this turns out to be true, it could mean everything from curing cancer to making manned interplanetary space expeditions feasible... not to mention treatment for radiation exposures in nuclear/radiological accidents/attacks. If this drug works, it would mean a true breakthrough as past experiments with radioprotectants were not particularly promising in any respect." The only source for the story at this time is an exclusive in YNet News, a site with the subtitle "Israel At Your Fingertips." Such a radioprotectant would be huge news for Israel. Make of it what you will.
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Cure For Radiation Sickness Found?

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  • by bishiraver ( 707931 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:40AM (#28728883) Homepage

    Actually, the BBC has a less slanted article: []

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:46AM (#28728975)

    Most DNA damage isn't primary and physical, it's secondary and chemical. After all, a single quantum or particle of ionising radiation can only ionise one target. The secondary electrons it creates, and the secondary chemical species those create, do the damage.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:51AM (#28729043)
    After all, a single quantum or particle of ionising radiation can only ionise one target.

    Err .. no. It can ionize targets as long as it has sufficient energy to do so. Never seen a cloud chamber?

    The secondary electrons it creates, and the secondary chemical species those create, do the damage.

    I doubt that any of those molecules (H2O2, mostly) survive for more than a few minutes before doing damage to something that may or may no be important.

  • it stops apoptosis (Score:5, Informative)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:53AM (#28729081)
    QUOTE : Researchers developed the drug after looking at how some resistant cancer cells are able to withstand radiotherapy.
    It works by inhibiting the protein that initiates the cell suicide programme

    In other word it does not repair radiation damage (cue the rad away joke), it just stops all the cells where this protein is present to die. Whether there was a good reason for them to die or not. It might be wonderful for radiation treatment, though. The researcher seems conscient of the risk (like new cancer developping).
  • by a_nonamiss ( 743253 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:03AM (#28729235)
    I know this is ./, but seriously, RTFA. It's all in there.

    Yes, it would be an effective way to treat cancer. That's why it's being developed.
    No, it doesn't affect the cancer cells, too.
    In the studies, the potential to actually cause cancer is being investigated. In testing so far, it hasn't happened.
  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:05AM (#28729273)

    Perhaps that was just speculation on the part of the submitter.

    Curing cancer entails the difficult process of getting all the people who have cancer today to not have it later (short of dying). A radioprotectant will not make cancer go away. It also won't prevent new cancers, since radiation is not the only cause.

  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:06AM (#28729285) Journal
    From what I am reading, the company which discovered it has radiation protection as a specialty but this drug is only loosely related to this. This molecule is showing good result in tumor treatments (31 subjects with a prostate cancer took it, 50% of them stabilized or had their tumor decrease)
  • by shacky003 ( 1595307 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:16AM (#28729429)
    Anyone remember the disgraced "scientist" that claimed cloned babies, etc?
    Maybe this only smells fishy because there's carp all over the damn place..
  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by nyctopterus ( 717502 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:22AM (#28729499) Homepage

    It's published in Science according to the BBC []. Jokes about tabloids aside, Science is a real scientific journal.

  • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:26AM (#28729537)
    That Medical News Today article is about a different set of experimental drugs from the same company. The article is also from January. It is interesting though that Cleveland BioLabs is basically developing drugs that work on the process of apoptosis in opposite ways. The "Curaxins" described in the Medical News Today article are cancer drugs that promote apoptosis, while CBLB502, their experimental anti-radiation damge drug, seems to work to prevent it.
  • Hyronalin (Score:3, Informative)

    by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:29AM (#28729561) Journal

    Looks like they may have discovered Hyronalin
    . []
    Wake me up when they have discovered Warp Drive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:30AM (#28729581)

    Ynet is Israel's top news site, owned by the most popular newspaper, Yedioth Achronoth (don't you love it when Hebrew names sound like mythical monsters?).
    The story is on the front page of the paper today as well. I can vouch for the site and newspaper's credibility (I actually worked there many many years ago), but not for this story.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:32AM (#28729613)
    It doesn't. Read this: []
  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Felgerkarb ( 695336 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:33AM (#28729631)
    Here [] is a link to an article about a radioprotective protein by the professor listed in the TFA.
  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) * on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:36AM (#28729675) Journal
    Yes and no. Yes, radiation does the damage you mention, but then a mechanism causes the damaged cells to self-destruct. With large enough radiation exposure, the result is sickness and possibly death. If I read this right, this protein interrupts that cellular self-destruct mechanism, preventing bodily sickness and death due to damaged cells committing suicide.

    So far, animal tests do not appear to show an increase in cancer, which would be a big concern with damaged DNA + free radicals floating around. Obviously, at this point there are no studies on whether this presents a long-term cancer risk, but since one of the applications for this protein would actually be in the treatment of cancer, I imagine that study will be underway soon.
  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:38AM (#28729705)

    If you dig around a bit, you'll find that this compound doesn't fix damage done by radiation - rather it prevents the body from killing off the damaged cells, thus preventing radiation sickness. The makers speculate that it will increase cancer risk, but they so far have not observed this in lab animals.

  • by HollyMolly-1122 ( 1480249 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:40AM (#28729743)
    As far as I know, radiation damages cells physically. Is it possible with chemical treatment to cure every and each such cell ? Sounds like science fiction.
  • Possible fraud? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <> on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:52AM (#28729915) Homepage
    Fraud? Slashdot has run numerous articles about "scientific advances" by companies that want investments. Is Slashdot paid for those articles?

    The article referenced in the Slashdot story, Cure for radiation sickness found? [] says:

    'The medication works by suppressing the "suicide mechanism" of cells hit by radiation, while enabling them to recover from the radiation-induced damages that prompted them to activate the suicide mechanism in the first place.'

    My opinion is that makes no sense. If a cell is damaged, and the body would normally eject the cell, a "protein" will not fix the damage. The cell will still be damaged, and will not be able to function normally.

    Living cells are extraordinarily complicated. If they experience the widespread grossly applied damage caused by radiation, one protein certainly will not repair them.

    The Cleveland BioLabs web site [] says, as part of their logo, "Controlling Cell Death to Protect Human Life". The stock reached a low of $1.34 on March 9, 2009, and is now at $4.41 [].

    This article gives more information: Report: Jewish Doctor In Ground-Breaking Cure For Radiation Sickness []. Quote: "The company's subcontractor in Europe is already prepared to embark on mass production."

    I'm guessing that the company needs money to begin mass production. Also, it is interesting that an American company will not manufacture the drug in the United States. One reason for that may be that it takes years to get FDA approval from the U.S. federal government.
  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:55AM (#28729963)

    Yep. ref :
    A Chemical Inhibitor of p53 That Protects Mice from the Side Effects of Cancer Therapy
            Pavel G. Komarov, Elena A. Komarova, Roman V. Kondratov, Konstantin Christov-Tselkov, John S. Coon, Mikhail V. Chernov, and Andrei V. Gudkov
            Science 10 September 1999 285: 1733-1737 [DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5434.1733] (in Reports)

  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:09AM (#28730149)

    Except that DNA-damage-induced apoptosis (programmed cells death) is a DEFENSE MECHANISM, not a hindrance. It prevents the damaged cells from replicating, thus preventing tumor development, and/or hereditary mutations. Preventing radiation-induced apoptosis would be a good drug to give soldiers when you want them to keep fighting after being lethally-irradiated... but it won't stop them from dying, it will just prolong their life and alter the proximal cause of death from radiation sickness to (most likely) a flood of lymphomas.

  • Imaginary Reportage (Score:3, Informative)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:35AM (#28730559) Journal

    Not the BioLabs stuff, the wild speculation and false statements spouted here being imaginary. Not a one here so far has attempted to find out if there actually were peer reviewed publications by Andrei Gudkov on the subject of radiation treatment and/or radioprotectants.

    Go to []

    Put 'Gudkov, Andrei' in as the search term

    You'll get 52 results with his name given as 'Gudkov AV'; the abstracts make it clear it's him by giving his associations.

    Repeat the search with 'Gudkov, Andrei radiation' as the search term.

    You'll get 10 results, all of which pertain to radiation treatment, radioprotectants and specifically the role of p53.

    Two of those entries are reviews. Those would be the most instructive to any who actually want to find out if there's actually research on the subject and what it's about. Here's the two abstracts:

    (1) Nat Rev Cancer. 2003 Feb;3(2):117-29.

    The role of p53 in determining sensitivity to radiotherapy.

    Gudkov AV, Komarova EA.

    Department of Molecular Biology, NC20, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.

    Ionizing radiation (IR) has proven to be a powerful medical treatment in the fight against cancer. Rational and effective use of its killing power depends on understanding IR-mediated responses at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels. Tumour cells frequently acquire defects in the molecular regulatory mechanisms of the response to IR, which sensitizes them to radiation therapy. One of the key molecules involved in a cell's response to IR is p53. Understanding these mechanisms indicates new rational approaches to improving cancer treatment by IR.

    Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jun 10;331(3):726-36.

    Prospective therapeutic applications of p53 inhibitors.

    Gudkov AV, Komarova EA.

    Department of Molecular Genetics, Lerner Research Institute, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.

    p53, in addition to being a key cancer preventive factor, is also a determinant of cancer treatment side effects causing excessive apoptotic death in several normal tissues during cancer therapy. p53 inhibitory strategy has been suggested to protect normal tissues from chemo- and radiotherapy, and to treat other pathologies associated with stress-mediated activation of p53. This strategy was validated by isolation and testing of small molecule p53 inhibitor pifithrin-alpha that demonstrated broad tissue protecting capacity. However, in some normal tissues and tumors p53 plays protective role by inducing growth arrest and preventing cells from premature entrance into mitosis and death from mitotic catastrophe. Inhibition of this function of p53 can sensitize tumor cells to chemo- and radiotherapy, thus opening new potential application of p53 inhibitors and justifying the need in pharmacological agents targeting specifically either pro-apoptotic or growth arrest functions of p53.


    Note: 'Apoptosis' is the tendency for cells to die off based on signals from other nearby cells that are dying off -- a 'suicide signal'. This happens in many situations, radiation exposure being one of them.

    As for emphasis on ethnicity, sure, they do mention it. The source noted is an Israeli newspaper. They have right to be proud since one of their citizens is accomplishing something notable to the world. Nobody seems to find it a problem when US newspapers note that a scientist is from the US. That's so common that it's not even noticed, unless you're not from the US. 90% of scientific publications are from the US. In those from other countries it's common for such emphasis to be included so the w

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @12:04PM (#28730979)

    The researchers theorize an increased cancer risk as a possibility as well.

    Since they've been unable to observe such increased risk in testing so far, I think your claim of a "significant" increase in risk is premature, and your labeling of the substance as a carcinogen is FUD.

  • The body does not repair cells that have been extensively damaged. The body expels damaged cells as waste, and makes new cells.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @12:31PM (#28731333) Homepage

    First, this isn't new; the company issued a press release on PR Newswire in January 2007.

    It has nothing to do with Israel; the work is being done at Cleveland BioLabs in Cleveland, Ohio. [] The researcher behind this, Andrei Gudkov [], is Russian. He was at the National Cancer Research Center in Moscow until 1990, then came to the US and became a professor at the University of Illinois.

    This seems to be legitimate; they're in FDA Phase I human testing (safety only, not effectiveness.). That doesn't mean it will work; if it makes it through Phase II, it's real.

  • Re:OMG! (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:41PM (#28732333)
    Technically, it's +8 rads base []. You probably have a high enough rad resistance to lower it to +2 (Somewhere between 62.5% and 75%, given that Fallout rounds in your favor, IIRC).
  • by egr ( 932620 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#28735987) Journal
    eh, no. It will certainly help humans, but dirty bomb will still radiate soil, and everything that grows there.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen