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Ed Yeates ReportingIn a bold experiment, two years ago doctors detonated what you could call a "Smart Bomb" inside a man's head. Their intent was to blow up a deadly brain tumor. But did it work?
Neurosurgeons at the Huntsman Cancer Institute still can't believe how well one of their young patients is every time he walks through the doors for a checkup. When doctors first diagnosed Jarod Swan's brain tumor, they painted a dismal picture.
Jarod Swan: "They told my parents there wasn't anything I could do about it, and they gave me about two weeks to live."
Jarod's grade four cancer was the worst kind of an adult brain tumor. In actual survival percentages...
Randy Jensen, M.D., Brain Tumor Research, Huntsman Cancer Institute: “Very slim, certainly less than one percent, maybe even point one percent.”
Jarod: "I was just like, you know, my whole world just caved in on me."
After several earlier surgeries and other treatments, neurosurgeon and researcher Dr. Randy Jensen decided to try a unique experimental drug that acts sort of like TNT. One molecular arm holds a radioactive substance while the other like a smart bomb searches out and grabs hold of only tumor cells. Once attached, the radiation - like dynamite - goes off, destroying the cancer from the inside out.
At first, Jensen and his colleagues thought residual cancer cells had been left behind. The drug had failed.
Randy Jensen, M.D.: "But now, over time, we've come to realize that that appears to be mostly scar tissue that was the result of the treatment."
The tumor is gone, and it's been that way now for two years - a magic closure time for this kind of tumor.
Jarod: "You know, I would have never thought it would have made it this far. But here I am."
Ironically, the small pharmaceutical company that made the drug isn't doing it anymore. And the new company that bought them out isn't investing in more clinical trials. Jensen isn't surprised.
Randy Jensen, M.D.: "It's hard to get funding or to get companies excited about brain cancer."
Meanwhile, Jarod Swan - who was one of only 40 patients on the clinical trials - continues doing well at his home in Idaho.
Randy Jensen, M.D.: "Every time I see Jarod, I'm amazed at how well he's done. I think a lot of it has to do with his perseverance."
Previous surgeries on Jarod's brain took their toll, but not enough to stop this 27-year-old champion.
Jarod: "I had to kind of learn how to read again and write again and things like that. Sometimes you've just got to start all over again." Dr. Jensen says the Huntsman Group is about to begin clinical trials on yet another smart bomb drug. Even more amazing, this one will use the dreaded disease diphtheria as a toxin to attack the tumors like dynamite.