Scientists have said they are making steady advancements in the fight against cancer and diabetes -- thanks to a rare population of dwarfs.
In a strange twist of fate, a doctor was treating people with dwarfism in a village in Equador. As it turned out that the same little people he was trying to help may be the ones who help millions of others avoid cancer. It has been heralded as a groundbreaking discovery in the fight against cancer.
Norman Apolo is a full-grown man, but stands less than four feet high.
He said he remembers long ago as a little boy in elementary school realizing he would never grow any taller. Apolo and others like him were diagnosed with laron dwarfism. Dr. Jamie Guevara began studying these little peope in hopes of eradicating their disease. Yet, in the process of figuring out what was medically wrong with them, he stumbled upon an amazing discovery -- none of them had cancer.
"I started noticing that somehow in this area that we all know in Equador are areas with high rates of cancer, but not one of these patients ever died of cancer," Guevara said.
Guevara discovered that the same gene that prevented their bodies from growing also stopped diabetes and cancer from developing. This fact is remarkable. Although scientists have discovered cancer does not grow in mice with dwarfism, this is the first time the same process has actually been observed in people.
"I think if we did not have the population of the human population, then the research would be delayed by years," said Dr. Valter Longo, a cell biologist at the University of Southern California.
Thanks to the 120 little people in a remote part of southern Equador, scientists now know that the gene that suppresses cancer and diabetes in mice is the same gene in humans. By the end of this year, treatments will begin on adults who are likely to get cancer or diabetes.