SPACE PATROL vs CANCER

by "Space Patroller Laser"


It is strange how things come back over time in different forms. I am pretty much the uber-fan of Space Patrol and have thought about it from time to time over the years, not knowing that it had, in some ways, continued its existence in the minds and hearts of so many people. Until recently, I did not know that it would come back to touch my life in a vital way and that I might not have lived to write this tale if it were not for Space Patrol.

In 1998, I contracted a form of low-grade, recurrant Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for which I was treated twice between that year and 2002 inclusive. in mid 2004, it again recurred. As is the custom, I informed others of this recurrance. One such was Jean-Noel Bassior, author of the definitive work about Space Patrol, along with others of my "space TV shows" group, fans and personnel of the early 1950's "space shows" like Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, Captain Video, Space Patrol and Rocky Jones: Space Ranger.

For those not in the know. the "spaceman shows" were television programs that ran from 1949 to 1955 in various schedule formats. Inspired by Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, comic staples since the 1930's and occasional movie serial subject matter, these shows were set in the future and involved the heavy use of space travel. They centered on organizations that were combinations of police and pseudo-military and sometimes Texas Ranger type gorups. Space Patrol was one such with Ed Kemmer playing the part of Commander in Chief Buzz Corry. This program followed the adventures of a 30th century band of "G-men" not unlike Hawaii Five-O, serving up stories of crime, intrigue, politics; it's where I first heard the term "pressure group", "national" security (in a well inhabited and united Solar System), natural disasters and invasions from the "Outer Galaxy". What few persons know is the interest in science that these shows created, with 10-year-olds actually having intelligent discussions of planets and space. and the smarter teachers using these shows as a backdrop to encourage interest in school subjects (I saw this close up as I was a huge space fan in 1952 and my second grade teacher, Miss Madden, put that to good use organizing the class into a "space club" along the lines of Tom Corbett's Solar Guard). The point is that these shows had an impact on the kids of the time. Space Patrol won a few industry awards and found favor with many adults.

It is in this context that I write this. The single most important variable in fighting cancer is early detection. This has taken the aggregate survival rate from less than 50% to over 60%. This is for several reasons: First early detection means getting at the bad guy before he can build up his strength so that we can use chemotherapy regimens that won't drop a horse. Second. in addition to getting the villain while he is still weak, we can target him for atomic ray attack more precisely and avoid much of the damage to the patient that used to occur. Third we can find the malignancy before symptoms occur [ADDED: 15 April 08] sometimes even before a biopsy is feasible, leaving us so far ahead of the curve that we have to wait for diagnostically useful conditions. Foruth we can abandon testing methods, like the old lymphangiogram that were painful, debilitating or with some other nasty consequences. Even the recently used Gallium scan requires preparation that is somewhat rigorous on the body. The two most powerful and significant tools in the detection arsenal are the CAT (Computer Aided Tomagraphy also called Computerized Tomagraphy or CT) scan and the PET (Positron Emission Tomagraphy). There is a Space Patrol link to both of these.

It was on Space Patrol that I first heard of what we now call "anti-matter", In the 30's, 40's and up until about 1958, this was called "cnotra-Terrene" matter or "CT" or "Seetee" and was the subject of Science Fiction, reaching it's peak in the never-ending Star Trek series. However, If you were a Space Patrol fan, then the trilogy of stories beginning with "The Exploding Stars" and ending with "The Doomed City" would have introduced you to this beast. Described on Space Patrol as "inside out matter", CT has the same kinds of particles as "normal" matter but the "charge" is different. This electrons, instead of having a negative charge have a positive charge and are called "positrons", Protons go from a positive to a negative charge and are called "Negatons". there are a few other differences but these are esoteric. The big deal with anti-matter is that when normal matter particles and anti-matter particles meet, both are annihilated in a burst of energy in the ultimate atomic reaction, making fission and fusion look like a cap pistol and a large firecracker next to a stick of Dynamite.

The PET scan works by infusing sugar with a radioactive substance that causes the emission of positrons which then are annihilated on contact with very nearby normal matte. This annihilation can be picked up on scanners as a burst of radiation as with radioactive Gallium, or any radio-isotope of an element. The theory behind this is that cancer and other damaged cells will take this sugar up faster and in greater quantities than normal cells and the results of all of this is detected by a scanner, unlike the episode of Space Patrol where contra-Terrene registered as a bright blue line on the spectroscope.

Now for the big one. Some 20+ years ago the CAT scan system was invented. This sends an X-ray photographic camera around in a circle while sending the body through this circle at a relatively slow speed, the result is a series of photos taken in a 3-D spiral known as a helix. A computer puts this all together in a three dimensional image of the body and locates the tumor in three dimensional space. This was perhaps the single greatest invention in the war on cancer. making possible precise locating of malignancies in very early stages, and pushing back the frontiers of early detection, not just incrementally but to a whole new level, showing small cancers before even the first symptoms have time to occur. As the first of the kind, the CAT scan system is the mother of all cancer-scan systems and made quite a splash when it came out. Not only that, but intead of becoming obsolete and replaced by the PET or other scan systems, the CAT is just getting faster, more precise and just plain better. It is being used for things other than cancer, like finding the bullet in a shooting victim and "whole body" scans are recommendted as part of health maintenence, with the CAT scan replacing the old multiple X-ray photos that used to be the order of the day some 50 years ago.

Now for the rest of the story. During the week ending Saturday 23, October, the following email conversations took place between Jean-Noel Bassior. The author of the monumental work about Space Patrol, who provided the key item in this tale, and me. after I had informed her of my situation:

JNB: By the way (not that this helps anything in any way [wrong: it meant a whole helluva lot]) but Dr. Olendorf, who co-invented the CAT scan, was a huge Space Patrol fan and extremely upset when Lyn Osborn died.

LASER: (after an unrelated email exchange) I got a note from Ed Kemmer (who played the part of Commander Buzz Corry of Space Patrol). You do *not* know [how] I am itching to tell him abot Dr. Olandorf but it's your story to tell or not as you see fit. Still, now that it has come home to roost at Space Patrol, I think he ought to know. In fact, it might be a good idea to post to the BBS about the accomplishments of Space Patrollers and the CAT scanner is probably the single most important tool in the anti-cancer and other nuke med arsenal. It took early detection, the single biggest factor in survival, from hit or miss to a science.

JNB: On a deadline tonight, but, if you like, I'll get you more info on Olandorf tomorrow. . . Then, feel free to share it, if you like.

LASER: Thanx

Here is the payoff:
JNB: Here's more info on Dr. William Oldendorf, co-inventor of the CAT scan. He was working at UCLA Medical Center when Lyn Osborn was admitted in August 1958, but he was not Lyn's physician. However, I interviewed Paul Crandall, the surgeon who operated on Lyn, and he told me that when the news spread among the medical staff at UCLA that Lyn had a virulent glioblastoma, a brain tumor which was virtually a death sentence, Dr. Oldendorf was extremely upset. "Space Patrol was like a ritual to him," Crandall told me. Obviously, Oldendorf was a huge fan.

jnb

This puts the lie to the base canard that "space cadets" were mentally deficient losers. I don't know about you, but everytime I see the "kitty" in action I will be proud to be part of the Space Patrol. I say "be" because it still goes on in the accomplishments of its fans. I remeber as a fourth grade kid coming to the conclusion that the world of Space Patrol was what I wanted. Upon deeper reflection I concluded that it would not be literally Space Patrol but the kind of world that could include Space Patrol. Since SP was not real. Now, when I come across the CAT scanner I will see how far that "not real" thing has reached into the real worl. It will be the pride that can only be felt by someone who has been touched in that special way that happens two or three times in a person's life.

One of the psychotheraeutic techniqes recommended to cancer patients is visualization in the manual they give you at Hudner Oncology. One of the things that they say you can visualized the therapy as "...rockets blasting cancer cells..." I wonder if the are Cosmic missles, or more likely, smokin' rockets?

NOTE: I sent this document in its original form sans corrections to Jean-Noel Bassior and Ed Kemmer. This is the response I got from Mr. Kemmer on 25 October '04:

Dear [my real name], Your e-mail nearly "blew me away", too. Your scholarly presentation deserves much applause, and I 'm grateful you sent it to me. It's much appreciated. Your strength and intellect ["intellect"; this guy knew what buttons to push and did so without deceit or guile], admirable. Please keep me informed. Hang in there,

Your friend,

Ed


Your CO,
Buzz
["CO" is "Commanding Officer"; this last meant more to me than you can ever imagine]