The recent flurry of things in China that experts say cause cancer (cooking oil, food containers, paper napkins…) is enough to send us into cancerous pit-stewing panic, seeing that we’re eating egg friend cancer off a cancer plate. But hark, lo, what is that? Chinese scientists have found something that may actually reverse a type of cancer, and that shining hope is in the form of… arsenic.
That’s right. A Shanghai group found that the notorious poison is an effective weapon against acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a blood and bone marrow cancer that blocks the production of healthy red blood cells. When arsenic — which has long been an ingredient in traditional medicine — was used as a treatment in 1992, the cancer had a 90% cure rate. The lab most recent finding is how it works: arsenic attack specific proteins that sustain the cancerous cells.
In a separate commentary, Scott Kogan at the University of California San Francisco Cancer Center theorizes that given these results, arsenic might be effective treatment for other types of conditions. “If so, an ancient medicine, revived through careful clinical and biological studies in modern times, will have an even greater impact on human health,” he said.
So next time someone tells you the takeaway here is poison, you can respond “No, that’s the thing that will cure you.”