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The Daily Wildcat

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Sean Parker, the inventor of Napster is taking on cancer

Daniel Torok/Patrick McMullan Co
Sean Parker, founder of Napster, arrives at the fifth Annual Help Haiti Home gala at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on January 9. Parker created a new foundation aimed at eradicating cancer.

Sean Parker, American technology billionaire who co-founded Napster, has begun a new project called the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, a foundation aimed at eradicating cancer.

Parker, who invested $250 million in the foundation, will bring together six of the country’s top cancer centers, allowing them to share access to each other’s intellectual property. Upwards of 300 researchers in 40 different cancer research labs will have access to each other’s findings as a result.

RELATED: New treatment may stop cancer progression

Cancer is a disease characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in a given area of the body. Cells in the body grow and divide as the body needs them. At the end of a cell’s life cycle—after it is old or damaged—it dies and a new one takes its place.

This bodily process is disrupted when one develops cancer. Extra cells can divide without stopping, potentially forming growths known as tumors. If malignant, these cells can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other regions, causing harm to the body.

The incidence of cancer has been staggeringly high in the United States. There will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer in 2016, according to, the most common forms being breast and lung cancer. About 40 percent of people will get cancer at some point in their lives.

It can be treated through methods such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, among others. Chemotherapy works to stop cells from growing at a rapid rate by targeting and killing cells that divide rapidly.

The issue, however, is that some chemotherapeutic drugs cannot always distinguish healthy cells from cancerous cells. This can lead to side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and more.

With Parker’s latest project, more research will be done to study a different type of cancer treatment known as immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses certain aspects of the body’s own immune system to fight disease, according to the American Cancer Society website.

Some ways in which immunotherapy can be applied to fighting cancer are by boosting the body’s immune response or by training the immune system to specifically target cancer cells.

Some advantages to immunotherapy are it has the potential reach microscopic areas that a surgeon cannot and that it does not always give preference to rapidly dividing tumor cells, like chemotherapy does.

As a result, slowly growing or quiescent cancer cells could be treated more effectively.

“This initiative in immunotherapy is driven by compelling advances in approaches to immunotherapy on several fronts” said William Chambers, senior vice president of extramuaral research and training at the American Cancer Society. “Focusing on adoptive cellular immunotherapy, checkpoint blockade and on identifying new targets expressed by tumors for T-cell therapy and vaccines covers the current landscape of opportunities and needs. Hopefully this incredible promise will be realized, … rapidly.”

Follow Akshay Syal on Twitter.

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