I said in a previous post (The Next Apple Leaders) that I wished Steve Jobs could live forever. In this post I’m going to outline some ideas for how the Apple CEO could save his life. I think it’s a difficult project, but not impossible. Jobs has the resources to save himself and millions of other patients by developing new treatments for pancreatic cancer and maybe even other forms of cancer.
Steve Jobs had a form of pancreatic cancer that was fortunately curable through surgery. He later underwent a successful liver transplant. In January, he took a medical leave of absence due to health concerns, though he has also made public appearances during June at WWDC and a meeting of the Cupertino City Council. Jobs has said that he doesn’t like people speculating about his health, but I think the potential for saving his life and the lives of other patients is too important for me to remain quiet. It’s also important to note that I’m not a doctor, much less Steve Jobs’ doctor. I’m just a blogger who is enthusiastic about medical research.
A strategy for saving the Apple CEO’s life might include the following:
1. Hire a team of doctors, medical researchers, medical librarians, and biology graduate students. Whether it’s a team of ten or a team of one hundred, someone like Steve Jobs has the money to spend on this type of research effort.
2. Go through existing cancer research on PubMed. The team should definitely go through the most promising papers cataloged in the pancreatic neoplasms subject heading. I think they should also skim through the abstracts of the most promising entries over a certain time period (the past several years? the past decade?) included in the entire list of nearly two million papers indexed under the neoplasms subject heading.
3. Set up search strings that use terms from oncology research to find papers that might not have been indexed yet. It’s also important to find recent information specific to pancreatic tumors, as well as studies about neuroendocrine tumors and the neuroendocrine system. Some example searches include:
• “pancreatic cancer”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic cancers”[title/abstract] OR “cancer of the pancreas”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic tumor”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic tumors”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic tumour”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic tumours”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic neoplasm”[title/abstract] OR “pancreatic neoplasms”[title/abstract]
4. Find medications (including off-label uses), dietary strategies, supplements, and chemicals that have anticancer properties. An example of promising research on using nutrition to fight cancer comes from Dr. Robert Su. Some of his posts on this topic include the following:
5. Find medications, supplements, and foods that fight cachexia and sarcopenia. Preserving muscle mass is incredibly important to prevent age-related diseases that can lead to death.
6. Check for any potential interactions between the existing antineoplastic and immunosuppressant medications Steve Jobs takes and new potential treatments such as supplements, medications, and foods.
7. Conduct experiments in vivo (on pancreatic tumor cells in petri dishes) and in vitro (in mice and rats that have pancreatic cancer) to verify the effectiveness of treatments and find new treatments.
8. Locate clinical trials for medications that treat pancreatic tumors. Hire lawyers and call in political support to gain participation in the most promising clinical trial. Buy entire pharmaceutical companies, pay the money for an FDA-approved clinical trial, or even set up an offshore biotechnology lab to break patents and run a one-patient trial.
9. During this whole process, monitor Steve Jobs’ health through a system that detects vital signs throughout the day, including while asleep.
10. If necessary, engage in a last ditch effort. This would involve experimental therapies like using heated nanoparticles to target tumor cells and growing new organs with stem cells. This would have to take place in a country with lax regulations on medical treatments. It’s important to note that this would NOT involve involuntary medical testing. These types of experiments would only recruit terminal patients who consent to the procedures, who understand the risks involved, and who would certainly die otherwise. The patients would receive only those therapies that have biological plausibility and the most evidence for efficacy. Hopefully the techniques listed in steps one through nine could save Steve Jobs’ life. If not, this last step might be necessary.
Some of these techniques may brush up against the boundaries of medical ethics, but I think the potential payoff for Steve Jobs and future cancer patients makes these efforts worth it.