New way to prevent cancer?

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A single cell causes it and it kills millions of people around the world every year. We have a lot of ways to treat cancer once it forms, but there might be a new way to prevent it.

It's most famous for these statues, but a drug discovered in the dirt among these Easter island icons back in the 70's, could be the answer to preventing cancer.

"This drug has had a lot of lives," says Dave Sharp, PhD Professor of Molecular Medicine UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Doctor Sharp says Rapamycin was first used as a fungicide. Now, it's used as anti-cancer therapy and an immuno-suppressant. "To prevent transplant rejection."

A few years ago, he got the idea it might help extend life too. "And everybody said oh that's a crazy idea."

But studies showed mice given the drug had their lives extended by up to 30-percent. "They look younger. They act younger. They're more mobile."

On top of that, Doctor Tyler Curiel says, "The mice that got Rapamycin appeared to have their cancers prevented."

Now they're giving mice cancer-causing chemicals. The idea is to find out if the drug is boosting their immunity, so their immune systems can kill cancer cells as soon as they appear.

"There's a lot of evidence that it boosts your immunity," says Tyler J. Curiel, MD, MPH.

If it really does prevent the disease in these guys, "Perhaps eventually people will be able to take this drug."

A dirty discovery that could clean out cancer.

A two year, 450-thousand dollar grant from the National Cancer Institute is helping fund the work. If the drug does prove to prevent cancer in mice, human trials could start in about two years.