We are a team of guerrilla fundraisers who have launched a global campaign to fund research into a potential treatment for the cancer that killed Steve Jobs.
The potential therapy, a cancer-busting virus, which if successfully developed could significantly extend the lives of patients with the same cancer as Steve Jobs, is currently sitting in a freezer in Sweden – but it can’t be tested for lack of just £2million.
Without the money, the research will cease and the virus will be thrown away, placing in jeopardy a therapy that could significantly extend the lives of thousands of NET cancer sufferers.
We’ve put this campaign together in a little over a week. We have no money behind us and everybody is volunteering their time for free. So there is no fancy website, now motivational wristband and no rock concert.
It’s just us, the scientists, the virus and you.
The campaign is led by author Alexander Masters who wrote the bestseller Stuart: A Life Backwards and Dominic Nutt, who has the same cancer as Steve Jobs. Masters took up the campaign when his close friend Dido Davies was diagnosed with the incurable cancer, known as a neuroendocrine tumour, or NET.
NETs are silent killers. Most don’t have any symptoms – until the cancer is critically advanced.
But there is a new potential treatment for NETs – a cancer which is on the increase – but big business won’t stump up the £2million needed to fund the first stage of trials, because at this early stage there is no money to be made. The Swedish research team, led by Prof Magnus Essand, is so keen to collaborate and share his findings, he published his research. But now it is out in the public domain it can’t be protected by a patent and make a profit.
But we want to put people before profit and bring this potential therapy to people.
Masters said: “I am deeply frustrated. There is a potential treatment – a virus that destroys this cancer in lab experiments. But it is sitting in a fridge in a research lab in Sweden waiting to be tested in humans. It only needs £2million to run the trial. That’s less than Apple earned in the first three minutes after launching the iPhone5.”
Fellow iCancer campaigner and social media expert Liz Scarff said: “We are appealing direct to the people. We are mavericks taking this to our Twitter communities across the world. We are cutting out the middlemen and the pharmaceutical companies.
“There is no wristband, no rock concert and no money. Everybody has been touched by cancer. This campaign is about people around the world coming together to try to beat it, in a different way. We want people to donate direct to the research project in Sweden, through twitter.
“Steve Jobs would not have given up. He would have found a way round the problem. That’s what we’re doing. As Steve Jobs said: ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.’
“This is our chance to do something wonderful,” said Scarff
NETs sufferer Dominic Nutt, added: “There is a groundswell of support for the iCancer campaign. I know this from the response I have had already. I wrote a piece about the Swedish virus for a UK newspaper. I sent out one tweet and it went global, reaching almost a million people on Twitter in a day – all of them wanting to help.”
There has been a huge and unexplained increase in the incidence of NET cancers in recent years, of up to 500 per cent, according to some research papers. In the case of Steve Jobs it was reported that he died of pancreatic cancer – although in fact he had a NET tumour on his pancreas.
NETs are cancers of the neuroendocrine system which incorporate glands that produce insulin, adrenalin and the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. They can appear all over the body.
The virus’ creator, Prof Magnus Essand of Uppsala University, says the £2million will bring the virus to the point where a big pharmaceuticals company can take it over, test it, patent it, bring it to full-scale development and make a profit.
And it is thought that the potential treatment, which has been successfully applied to NETs in mice, could have wider applications for other cancer patients.
NETs cancer expert Prof Alan Melcher, Professor of Clinical Oncology and Biotherapy at the University of Leeds, said: “This virus has the potential to prolong the quality and length of life of sufferers.
“The virus may have a similar relationship with a NET patient as drugs have with diabetics or patients with heart disease. Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, but it manages it so that a diabetic doesn’t die from lack of insulin. Cancer, too, is becoming a chronic disease, which, even when incurable, can be controlled for long periods of time. If we get this right, virus treatments may have huge potential – not just for NETs but for other cancers too.”
The NET-targetting virus is based on adenovirus serotype 5, a virus that normally gives you a bad cold. Thanks to genetic alterations designed by Prof Essand and his team, the virus only replicates in, and kills, NETcancer cells.
For more information on NETs and help and support please visit the NET Patient Foundation.