Essay on England: Cancer and Hela Cells

Submitted By lytergwaserty
Words: 2459
Pages: 10

Tyler Swaggerty English 121
Professor Schmeer
November, 7, 2012

The Progression of Cancer In 1951 a scientist by the name of George Gey achieved something that scientist had been striving towards for centuries; he was the first to culture human cells outside of the body. He named these cells Hela, after the person they came from, Henrietta Lacks. She had no idea that when she developed cervical cancer in 1951 that she would help to shape the medical field for every generation after her. This paper will focus on how these cells influenced or understanding, and treatment of cancer specifically. My intentions are to focus on the scientific advantage that the world has gained through research using these cells. There is no argument that HeLa changed the medical field forever, and gave birth too many of the modern treatments we use today. Many treatments, cures, and vaccinations were developed using HeLa cells. HeLa cells made the polio cure possible, and helped to develop many of the medications used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Rebecca Skloot, in her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, discusses this in great detail. It is curious to think that the cancer which killed one patient has helped to cure millions today. Though the treatment of cancer has drastically changed since 1951, our understanding of it really has not. Scientist still debate over exactly what causes cancer to this very day, there are several theories, but none are proven. What has been proven is that radium used in cancer treatments, which was the case in the time of Henrietta Lacks, actually cause cancer. R.E Rowland wrote and published a case study done at the Argonne National Laboratory, for the Environmental Research Department in Argonne, Illinois. The title of this article is “Radium in Humans: A Review of U.S. Studies”, it was supported by the United States Department of Energy. In the report he states that radium was first discovered by Marie curies and her husband in 1898. They were the very first to isolate the element from its surroundings. Chemist and physicists alike were very intrigued with the properties of radium and the potential it held. Physicians became very interested in the gamma rays given off by the radium, which were very similar to those of recently discovered X-rays (Rowland 3). In the article “Cancer and Radiation Therapy: Current Advances and Future Directions”, Kuo Ann Lee, Richard Yeo, and Kheng-Wei Yeoh write about the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen in 1895. Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes for her research of radium, making both Rontgen and Currie the pioneers of radiation therapy (193-194). After its discovery, radium was celebrated as a miracle drug and was used to treat many different ailments. In 1914 The New York Times released an article titled “Finds Radium Kills the Cells of Cancer: Head of Pittsburg Free Clinic Tells Results of Treatments for Three Years.” In this article the author talks about how radium was used to treat things like; cancer, kidney disease, gout, sleeplessness and arthritis. The author writes about Dr. William H. Cameron, the doctor in charge of the conference, and discusses how he often told patients suffering from arthritis to bathe in water containing radium. He said “I don’t Know how it fixes up the joints. I may not be believed when I tell you this, but I have seen it effective time and time again in restoring the use of joints which have not been moved in three or four years.” He even goes on to say that he himself would submit to radium treatments for certain types of cancer. At the time they did not know that radium actually caused cancer (Skloot 32). While it did kill the cancer cells it also killed healthy cells and mutated those nearby, given the cancer an opportunity to reappear. The type of treatments that Dr. Cameron said he would submit to were those of direct application. He said that if he had cancer on any surface of his body he would tell his