On Jan 23, a significant advancement in cancer treatment was announced by the Tokyo Institute of Technology in which polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) combined with a drug used in a type of radiotherapy called BNCT greatly boosted its effectiveness.
This is great news since PVA is a safe, simple-to-use, cheap, and widely available polymer. PVA is so widely used that it can be found as a component in many everyday items such as eye drops or the common Japanese glue Arabic Yamato.
▼ The name refers to its use of “gum arabic” as a stabilizer.
This brand of glue is so widely used that some media outlets in Japan used it as a catchy angle for reporting this discovery. Foe example, an Asahi Shimbun story had the headline: "Liquid Glue’ promising star in radiotherapy, cancer cells almost eliminated.”
While technically not incorrect, its easy to see from the headline and image how some people might take that the wrong way and assume the old bottle of Arabic Yamato in their drawer has suddenly become the cure for cancer. It’s even easier to see when reading comments about the news.
“Wow. Glue can even fix people’s lives.”
“So if I drink glue every day, can I stay healthy?”
“Why did I use a glue stick so much growing up?”
“I just ate some.”
“I’m going to go take a bath in glue now.”
“I used to love putting this stuff on my hand and peeling it off.”
“How did they think to put glue on a cancer cell? Amazing.”
“Well, if that’s the case, I’m using Arabic Yamato from now on since it’s pharmaceutical.”
Granted, most of the comments are probably jokes. Nevertheless, in spite of the great boost in customer loyalty this story has given them, Yamato probably grew nervous at hearing a bunch of people express desire to drink their glue and issued a statement the same day.
“As for us, just as we were when this topic was popular last May, we are very surprised to learn that the main component of liquid glue, PVA, has such potential in the medical field. We are very happy about this bright news.
However, as for our products, please do not use them for anything other than their intended purpose for normal consumers.
Thank you for your continued support of our various adhesive products including Arabic Yamato which has been loved since its release in 1975.”
In addition to Yamato’s warning, it’s important to note that PVA by itself has no effect on cancer cells at all. When it comes to BNCT, a compound called p-boronophenylalanine is just as good at destroying cancer as it is Scrabble opponents.
However, simply by mixing with this powerful compound, PVA allows it to stay inside the cancer cell long enough to ensure it wreaks the havoc it’s designed to. This makes the tag-team of PVA and p-boronophenylalanine a highly effective killer of cancerous cells. Clinical trials are currently underway to see just how effective it is.
Sources: Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yamato, Big Globe News, Hachima Kiko
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