Edible Chemotherapy: Are Cows the Key?

We all know someone who's had chemotherapy. Many people who have gone through it can tell you getting those IV drips in the hospital is one of the worst parts. But what if you could take those powerful chemotherapy drugs right in your own home? That's just one of the benefits of an innovative therapy coming from an unlikely source.

Ana Garcia Gustafson has mastered the art of optimism. Not easy when you’re fighting pancreatic cancer.

"I'm giving it all I can give! Kickin' it in the derriere," Gustafson said.

To keep hope alive, she takes a mix of potent chemo drugs. Treatment days are six-hour infusions.

"That's pretty tough for an old lady," she said.

Some chemo drugs can be given orally, but many must be given by IV.

"Some drugs just cannot survive the condition in the stomach," said Dr. Tom Anchordoquy, a Pharmaceutical Scientist from the University of Colorado, Skaggs School of Pharmacy.

Anchordoquy has found an unusual way to change that.

"It'd make things a lot easier and cheaper," he said.

He's putting powerful drugs into raw milk. Milk particles can survive harsh stomach conditions and make it to the bloodstream, right where cancer drugs need to be.

"This particle goes in and it protects it. It's like you’d be surrounded by a shield," Anchordoquy explained.

That means patients could take powerful drugs that normally have to be given by IV -- orally, at home. And potent drugs too dangerous for humans could now work when attached to milk particles.

"By putting them in these particles, we can hopefully minimize their toxicity a little bit and make them a little more amenable to human use," Anchordoquy said.

His biggest supporter? Gustafson.

"What a great mind to think outside the box!" she said.

With hope intact, Gustafson's learning to live a new normal.

"We'll take it one day at a time," she said. "I wanna live, I want to live."

Scientists say getting treated at home is a big plus for patients undergoing chemotherapy, but researchers are even more excited about what this technique could mean for future treatments. Very powerful drugs that cannot be used in humans right now could soon be a real option just by attaching them to milk particles. 

Contributors to this news report include: Stacie Overton Johnson, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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