Friday, January 27, 2017

Using WWII Guerrilla Tactics For Medical Innovation

Last year, I read an interesting book called "Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's Shadow War".

It was about how, during WWII, the OSS (precursor of the CIA), British, and exiled French intelligence services parachuted operatives into German-occupied France to organize the Resistance.

They organized regular people into guerrilla units.  They couldn't fight head-on against the German army, but they did things like bomb bridges, sabotage railroad tracks, etc.

They had two main missions:

1. When D-Day started, they had to delay German reinforcements from reaching Normandy from western and southern France.

2. After the Allies were winning control of France, they had to delay German units from escaping back to Germany (where they could regroup).  At the very least, they had to force them from traveling by back roads and village-to-village, so they would have to use the highways, where they would be siting ducks for air attacks.

Today, I got to thinking that this might be a useful metaphor for medical and drug research.  For diseases like certain cancers, we now have multiple drugs on the market, and they seem to make incremental improvements in survival rates.

Maybe, as an innovation, drug companies should also start to look for "Jedburgh" drugs.  Drugs that don't combat cancers directly, but aid the drugs already on the market.

In other words, what if we look like drug vs. cancer as a war.  For example, maybe a drug is targeting a certain protein that the cancer needs.  Why isn't it finishing off the cancer?  Is the cancer replicating itself too fast (getting replacements) that it can keep ahead of the loss of protein? Or is the cancer taking counter-measures and releasing some other chemical to protect the protein?

Maybe they can then create a drug that slows down the replication, or a drug that reduces or eliminates this secondary chemical.  By itself, neither of these drugs would be effective against cancer but, they might enhance the success of the main one.