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The wonderment of technological advances

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By David Davis

I used to think how wonderful it must have been for someone born in the 1890s, like my grandpa and lived through the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, two world wars, the Ford assembly line, airplanes, space travel, the telegraph, telephone, radio, television — everything we use all the time and don’t give a second thought — my grandpa saw in its very beginning.

Grandpa died in 1967 of lung cancer, so he didn’t see man go to the moon, but some say no one else saw it either. Grandpa was a cowboy. He smoked Camel nonfiltered cigarettes. I used to love the smell of the cigarettes when he smoked. I admired the way he could strike a match on his Levi’s. Back then Levi’s were just jeans that came in blue and white. When I was riding with him in his 1954 Ford pickup, he struck matches on the metal dash. The dash was red, like the rest of the pickup, except for a discolored spot to the right of the steering wheel where he struck the matches. I used to ride with him to the livestock sale. I loved the smell of the animals, molded straw, the smoke; then there were all of the sounds of the animals. The auctioneer sounded like LeRoy Van Dyke when he sang the “Auctioneer Song.”

There was an old country doctor in my hometown. He was the only one around for about 20 miles and for some, a lot farther than that. Everyone knew him. He began practicing medicine on horseback at a time when people paid him in chickens, eggs, milk, butter or garden produce.

By the time I got to know the doctor, he wasn’t much good for anything else except giving out penicillin, flu vaccinations and B-12 shots.

Grandpa was a hypochondriac and one day when he went to see the old doctor. As he often did, he just gave grandpa some sugar pills and sent him on his way. Unfortunately, grandpa didn’t get to feeling better. He went to a hospital in another town where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Knowing grandpa was not going to quit smoking, the doctor told him he needed to at least cut down. Being a pragmatic man, he got out his pocketknife, cut the Camel cigarettes in half and continued the habit, a half a cigarette at a time.

Lung cancer is still not a pleasant death, but it was a horrible death in the 1960s. I remember him being at home in a spare bedroom where he laid in agony. My aunts took turn giving him shots of morphine to ease the pain.

After he died, cigarettes stunk and going to the sale barn was no longer fun.

But, technology marched forward. Usually all most people ever hear about are about consumer electronics, phone apps and video games, which many times are made possible because of more serious research by the military, industry, medical and academic research. I very recently read an article about research at Rice University that could likely lead to a cure for cancer. According to the article published in the journal “Biomaterials.”

Recent advancements in the field of immunotherapy have yielded encouraging results for the treatment of advanced cancers using a powerful new class of immunotherapy drugs known as STING (Stimulator of Interferon Genes) antagonists currently in clinical trials.

However, previous studies improved survival only in relatively nonaggressive tumors. However, STINGel is an injectable gel that localizes and provides controlled release of delivery, showing an eightfold slower release rate compared to a standard collagen hydrogel.

This study demonstrates the feasibility of biomaterial-based immunotherapy platforms like STINGel as strategies for fighting cancer.

Grandpa marvelled at the advancements he witnessed allowed man to reach outward. I think now about technological advancements made in my lifetime that allow us to reach inward.