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Cancer Researcher Stumbles Upon Concussion Treatment

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – London Glenn, 13, had the football.

He was running toward the end zone during a game, when another player tackled him.

"I spun around and I fell backwards and my head whiplashed into the ground," he said.

"I didn't really think much of it," he added. "I went to the nurse, she said I was fine so I just didn't do football that day."

But he wasn't fine. Eventually doctors diagnose him with a concussion.

He tried to go back to school, but he couldn't concentrate. Bright lights and loud noises gave him severe headaches. And he slept all the time.

"It was terrifying," said London's mom Lucy Humble. "And all they could tell us was, 'this happens and rest assured he'll get better.'"

London missed a total of nine weeks of school.

But a Texas doctor hopes his accidental discovery will help kids like London avoid all of that.

James Lechleiter thought his team in San Antonio had developed a drug to kill cancer cells in the brain. But in repeat experiments, the drug actually did the opposite.

"They actually lived longer," Lechleiter said. "They were tougher and that really surprised us, to the point where I made the graduate student repeat the experiment a number of times."

Instead of shrinking or killing the cells, the drug actually could prevent long-term damage if taken immediately after a concussion – and could one day be a dose for both amateur and professional athletes.

"The drug inside the pill is designed so that it does not get into the brain unless actually, it's damaged," said Lechleiter. "And so if you don't have an actual injury that day, it's excreted and so you're good to go."

It's been about a year since London's concussion.

He feels OK now, but he knows the damage may be with him permanently.

"I really can't tell that there was anything wrong with it now, but I know there was," he said.

"There may not be a magic bullet, but again, anything we can do that can, you know, A. protects the kids from ever getting concussions, then, you know, identifies them quickly, and then certainly anything that's going to help speed the recovery is just fabulous," said Lechleiter.

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