Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amazing Medicine ::: Atheist Christopher Hitchens turns to evangelical Christian doctor in his fight against cancer

I love everything about this story. Everything.

Dr Francis Collins, the former director of the National Human Genome Research Project was one part of the team which developed techniques to map out the entire human DNA make-up is using Hitchens as a guinea pig for a new treatment.

Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has had his genome mapped out in its entirety by taking DNA from healthy tissue and from his cancerous tumour.

On each sample six billion DNA matches were run, in order to catalogue the mutations in the cancerous cells which had given Hitchens cancer of the oesophagus.

Then in the New Year Dr Collins found a mutation and went about tackling the DNA directly.

He discovered that a drug already existed to treat the particular mutation and now Hitchens takes just one tablet a day, rather than undergoing gruelling chemotherapy.

Hitchens, 61, told London’s Daily Telegraph: ‘I’m an experiment.

‘These are early stages, but in theory it should attack the primary site of the tumour.

'If that does happen, it won’t just be good news for me, it will be very exciting in the general treatment of cancer.’

The unlikely alliance between the Christian and Atheist formed when the pair used to debate each other about whether God existed, leading to the two becoming friends.

Dr Collins, who is director of America’s National Institutes of Health, has authored his own book on religion’s role in medicine: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

Hitchens added: ‘It is a rather wonderful relationship.

‘I won’t say he doesn’t pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn’t discuss it with me.

‘He agrees that his medical experience does not include anything that could be described as a miracle cure.’

Hitchens, a prominent Atheist, he refused to change his views on religion even after his diagnosis in June 2010.
He said he finds the new treatment very exciting.

‘At least it spares me some of the boredom of being a cancer patient because what I’m going through is very absorbing and positively inspiring,’ he said. ‘But if it doesn’t work, I don’t know what they could try next.’

I also like their books, side-by-side.

god is not Great book cover Language of God

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