NEW YORK (PIX11)—In a city that's been the victim of one of the world's largest terrorist attacks, and which is within a fifty mile radius of both the Indian Point and Oyster Creek nuclear power plants, one of the greatest fears in New York is of a radioactive emergency caused by terrorism or by accident. Now, however, a breakthrough has emerged to treat the devastating, fatal effects of such an incident.
"[It's] a groundbreaking study," Dr. Ofer Levy, 45, of the Children's Hospital, Boston and Harvard Medical School, told PIX11 News in an exclusive New York interview about a two-drug treatment that in clinical trials appears to create conditions that could help people survive some of the worst known health conditions. "[Such as] a nuclear leak, or war, terrorism or other sources of radiation," Levy said.
The newly released results of the five-year study Dr. Levy conducted with Dr. Eva Guinan of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center are remarkable. In the study, they combined two substances -- fluoroquinolone, an antibiotic related to Cipro, which is taken orally, and a protein called bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein, or BPI.
When that combination of substances was administered in trial after trial on mice that had been exposed to radiation multiple times the lethal level, not only did the mice survive, according to Dr. Levy, "We found dramatically improved survival in the animals who got the combination."
In other words, the health of the mice improved. Also, the two substances used in the study have not only been used on mice, they have been used separately, and safely, on humans for years. The study provided the first comprehensive results of fluoroquinolone and BPI being used together, and what's more, they were administered a full 24 hours after the radiation exposure, and still provided unprecedented results.
"That you can give them so late and that they both have a safety track record in humans," Dr. Levy told PIX11 News, "We believe makes this a a groundbreaking study."
One of the country's most prominent security experts agrees. Robert Strang is the CEO of Investigative Management Group, a company that provides security and intelligence gathering to some of the largest corporations in the U.S. He was also the head of the 9/11 Task Force, a group of high-level security experts that the state of New York and New York City convened after the September 11th attacks to analyze anti-terror needs in the wake of the tragedy. Strang told PIX11 News that a key scenario that the task force considered over and over was a dirty bomb attack on Times Square.
"How are we going to deal with so many people who were so sick, and how are we going to treat those people?" Strang said were the primary questions that emerged after 9/11, and he called Drs. Levy and Guinan's research a breakthrough in answering those questions.
Strang told PIX11 News that the task force made three main recommendations in the wake of the 9/11 attacks: redoubling efforts to eliminate terrorist cells and leaders, boosting intelligence resources, and developing methods to recover from the effects of the worst imaginable terrorist acts as quickly as possible.
He said that the Obama Adminstration's killing of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and other terrorists accomplished the task force's first objective; intelligence services and police preventing more than a dozen planned attacks on New York since 9/11 accomplished the second, but the third, Strang said, of being able to recover as quickly as possible from the effects of a radiological attack, had yet to be accomplished until now. He called the Harvard Medical School research a breakthrough.
It's funded in large part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a division of the Department of Defense. Strang is convinced that it's the first in a series of discoveries that will finally help security leaders achieve their third objective of developing methods to recover from the effects of terrorist acts as quickly as possible. "This is just another tool we will have available to us," Strang said, "if and when we have a dangerous event here or anywhere in our country."
Dr. Levy points out that, even though he is based in the Boston area, his research has important New York components. He was born and raised in Manhattan, and considers his discovery with Dr. Guinan to be a contribution to his hometown.
Also, Levy told PIX11 News, BPI, one of the two substances that are part of his anti-radiation poisoning treatment, was discovered in New York at his medical school alma mater, the NYU School of Medicine, by his mentors there, Dr. Peter Elsbach and Dr. Jerry Weiss.