Walton institute on the front lines of cancer fight

Killer cells that seek out and destroy cancer

Killer cells that seek out and destroy cancer may seem like the stuff of fiction, but it may become a reality at the Santa Rosa Beach-based Good Samaritan Institute.

Doug Liles, founder for the institute, recently opened talks with St. Jude hospital in a move to expand its educational offerings to include such cutting-edge research.

The idea is to facilitate lab training for oncologists using N-K cells, or natural killer cells, developed by doctors at St. Jude in Memphis, Tenn.“

It is one of the most amazing things I have seen in my life,” the microbiologist said of a video demonstration he saw of “supercharged” cells, which search out and kill nine cancer cells, rest and then begin seeking nine more cancer cells to kill.

 The study, which included 10 patients, some in stage-four leukemia, has demonstrated tremendous results for fighting and destroying cancer cells, Liles said.

“All 10 are in remission,” Liles said.

During the study, doctors used parents’ NK cells to treat the children because the patients were too weak. In the future, doctors may be able to use a patient’s own supercharged NK cells to fight the cancer.

By “using yourself to heal,” Liles said, it eliminates the possibilities of the body rejecting the foreign cells.

After St. Jude's NK clinical trials and patent filings for the technology are complete, GSI hopes to facilitate lab-based training for oncologists worldwide.

In the past, the focus for the institute has been geared toward Web-based-technology transfers such as asynchronous communication of cancer institute directors. The most recent educational session was between area science teachers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We got the highest level of participation from Bay County," Liles said. The county gave $50 continuing education stipends to participating teachers.

Liles said “continuing education for teachers is an effective way to teach our children,” adding that he decided to become a microbiologist after being inspired by a fifth grade teacher.

“The excitement and enthusiasm she showed made me think this must be important,” he said. "It has stayed with me.”

While the killer cells represent a new frontier for the institute, it continues to move forward on its plans to develop a community garden, which will be cultivated through a scientific approach. 

“There have been over 50 people who have indicated an interest, with more than two dozen Master Gardeners signing up to share their knowledge,” Liles said. “We are approaching it from a scientific angle.”

“Put the effort in to get a result,” Liles said of the institute’s overall approach.