What Scientists Are Learning From Herpes And Weed In The Fight Against Cancer

Sloths may slowly, but surely, save us all.

Cancer research involves exploring just about every possible avenue when in search of new, more effective treatments. Compounds in lots of different plants, or even viruses, are helping scientists better understand approaches to cancer treatment.

Bear in mind, however, that while compounds extracted from certain sources are giving us valuable information about cancer treatment, they themselves are not cures. So please, don't go searching for dengue fever-infected mosquitos thinking they'll make you invincible. 

Now, check out some of the unusual things that have served as inspiration for scientists looking to learn more about cancer:

1. Marijuana.

According to studies at the California Pacific Medical Research Center, a component found in cannabis called CBD can slow or even stop the spread of breast cancer cells. CBD also appears to be less toxic than regular chemotherapy treatments, which means its side effects would be much less harsh. However, trials have shown it's most effective when combined with traditional treatment.

2. Herpes.

Aside from being a dreaded STI, herpes may actually be pretty helpful in labs. Scientists have been using a strain of genetically modified herpes in the development of virotherapy, which is effectively using viruses to kill cancer cells. While herpes isn't the only virus that has been studied, it was effective in 25 percent of skin cancer patients treated with it, and may have cured 10 percent of them.

3. Dengue fever.

One pharmaceutical startup has suggested infecting cancer patients with something with a pathogen to set off a fever in order to activate the immune system and attack the tumor. Dengue fever, which is spread by mosquitos, carries lower risk than many other tropical diseases. 

4. Sloths.

Sloths — or sloth hair, in particular — carry a fungi that has caught the attention of scientists during the last few years. In addition to fighting malaria and Chagas disease, the fungi slow the growth of specific breast cancer cells.

5. Naked mole rats.

Shockingly, naked mole rats are more than just a smooth pretty face. They have extremely low cancer rates, and scientists have been studying what it is about these Tyra Banks of the animal kingdom that give them such longevity. Naked mole rats' cells appear to have a complex sugar that causes cancerous cells to self-destruct, and scientists are trying to learn more about cancer by studying this component.

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