BruceBlaus’ image showing the life of a cancer cell, via Wikimedia Commons.
BruceBlaus’ image showing the life of a cancer cell, via Wikimedia Commons.

Curing Cancer, with 2018 Nobel Laureate Jim Allison

Shown: The life of a cancer cell. Image Credit: BruceBlaus [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.

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About This Episode

On this episode of StarTalk Radio, we’re exploring a topic that has been at front and center for some of the brightest scientific minds for decades: finding the cure to cancer. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chuck Nice sit down with freshly-minted 2018 Nobel Laureate, Dr. Jim Allison, to discuss the frontier of cancer treatment and research. We caught up with Jim moments after it was announced that he had won the 2018 Nobel Prize and he joins us to answer your fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about continuing the fight against cancer.

You’ll hear about Jim’s research and how he found ways , as did fellow Laureate Tasuku Honjo of Japan, to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It wasn’t smooth sailing: Jim tells us about some of the backlash he received about the process, as well as which types of cancer are most impacted by this treatment. You’ll learn about the development process of a treatment, including trials on mice, and about the necessity of dealing with the FDA. Find out if we’re developing ways to prevent cancer from even happening at the same time that we’re researching ways to get rid of it once it’s found.

When it comes to Cosmic Queries, we answer a simple, yet still mysterious question – what is cancer? Find out why Jim calls cancer a “social disease.” Investigate whether cancer can be treated with gene-editing and CRISPR. Discover more about cryosurgery and if it’s even a viable option for cancer treatment. Get details on superfoods and whether any specific foods or diets can help a person battling cancer in aiding their immune system. You’ll also hear whether there is any research being done in order to predict those genetically predisposed to get cancer. We look at the applicability of nanotechnology for cancer treatment and research, and Jim explains how we extract patients’ cancer cells to conduct research. Ponder the chances of finding a universal cure to all types of cancer, and whether there are any cancer treatments that are based on cannabis.

You’ll also discover if humans could potentially evolve out of cancer, or if it’s possible to use sharks and their cancer-resistant immune systems to our advantage. Jim discusses how the advancements in technology over the last 4-5 years have helped cancer research and treatment, and  if there have been any advancements in stem cell research that connect to our better understanding of cancer research. All that, plus Neil offers a cosmic perspective on the interdisciplinary nature of the sciences.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Curing Cancer, with 2018 Nobel Laureate Jim Allison.

In This Episode

  • Host

    Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Neil deGrasse Tyson
    Astrophysicist
  • Co-Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    James Allison

    James P. Allison, PhD
    2018 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, Immunologist, Chair of Immunology and Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

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Episode Topics

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Music in This Episode