Forums > Social Discussion > "The Cure For Cancer" -- A rant

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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Member Since: 28th May 2001
Total posts: 13920
Posted:Lately I've seen a number of posters, demonstrations, rubber wrist bands, etc. all demanding "THE CURE" for cancer.

And this irritates the hell out of me for a few reasons.

1) THERE IS NO SUCH DISEASE AS CANCER.
"Cancer" is a term that describes the end result of a series of events leading to disordered cell proliferation that causes the formation of tumors all over the body. There are many different ways to get cancer and each is its own disease. For example, testicular cancer and breast cancer are two very different diseases, but they're both cancer. But demanding "a cure for cancer" is like demanding "a cure for fever."

2) THERE IS NO "SECRET" CURE TO CANCER.
Let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the above point was null and void and that it was possible to come up with some drug that would cure all cancer and be as easy to take as a course of antibiotics.

Now, the accusation is that drug companies have this cure but are quashing it because they make much more money treating sick people.

Um... confused huh? confused That makes as much sense as sayiing that antibiotics would never be released by drug companies because they make more money treating people who die of infections.

Look, cure for cancer or no cure for cancer, people are going to keep getting cancer. And if you could come up with the magic "antibiotic" for cancer, you'd make a killing selling it.

3) THERE ARE ALREADY CURES FOR CANCER, ESPECIALLY BREAST CANCER.
I've cured breast cancer myself. Or at least I've participated in the procedure. She was a 56-year-old lady who noticed a lump on self breast exam one day and it turned out to be a suspicious mass on mammography. So I scrubbed in on the operation to remove the tumor. And we got it. She needed a few rounds of chemotherapy, but because of early detection and early intervention, she's in remission and will be cured most likely in another 3 years.

Lance Armstrong is probably due to be "cured" of his testicular cancer any month now.

And if you have a child who gets an acute lymphocytic leukemia, his survival chances are greater than 90%.

Thyroid cancer can be cured, as can colon cancer. These cures aren't always easy, since the cure to thyroid cancer destroys healthy thyroid and colon cancer involves a partial colectomy, but they are cures. Melanoma is treated by excision.

I'm not saying that we should stop research and declare the war on cancer won, because pancreatic cancer and small-cell carcinoma of the lung are still ~100% lethal.

But the "Cure" to many cancers is early detection. That means doing your self breast and testicular exams and getting to the doctor if you think you have a problem.

Guys, peak age for testicular cancer is 15-35. Do your self exams!

Ladies, do your breast self exams!

Ok, rant over.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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JauntyJames
JauntyJames

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Hampshire College, MA, USA
Member Since: 22nd Dec 2004
Total posts: 3533
Posted:I've got a pet saber tooth hamster.

He sais he's got the cure to cancer, but he won't tell me what it is.


-James

"How do you know if you're happy or sad without a mask? Or angry? Or ready for dessert?"

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NYC
NYC

NYC
Location: NYC, NY, USA
Member Since: 26th Aug 2001
Total posts: 9232
Posted:Written by: Doc Lightning


NYC, the "good of the species" thing is generally rejected in evolutionary biology. It's more a "selfish gene" thing.

Besides, if evolution is about the "good of the species" then how can we explain YOUR presence? wink



Could say the same about you. wink


Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]

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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Member Since: 28th May 2001
Total posts: 13920
Posted:Written by: NYC

Besides, if evolution is about the "good of the species" then how can we explain YOUR presence? wink



Could say the same about you. wink



eek Touche. ubblol

ubbidea Although...
I could be the pinnacle of evolution...the ultimate goal. In which case there'd no point in further reproduction, would there? biggrin

Ok, y'all aren't buying that line, eh? shrug


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Sethis
Sethis

Pooh-Bah
Location: York University
Member Since: 16th May 2005
Total posts: 1762
Posted:Written by: Doc Lightning

ubbidea Although...
I could be the pinnacle of evolution...the ultimate goal. In which case there'd no point in further reproduction, would there? biggrin

Ok, y'all aren't buying that line, eh? shrug



Heh, if you're the pinnacle of evolution... somehow I expected more arms... and toes... and why aren't your eyes a dodgy green colour?


After much consideration, I find that the view is worth the asphyxiation.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

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linden rathen
linden rathen

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: London, UK
Member Since: 2nd Mar 2005
Total posts: 6942
Posted:you should have natural poi Doc

anyway offtopic


back

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Birgit
Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh
Member Since: 27th Jan 2005
Total posts: 4145
Posted:Oooooooh so much science! I'm getting excited wink

Starting with Newgabe...:

Written by: newgabe

OK I'm not posting this as a fact, but as a question.
The immune system primarily deals with 'foreign' stuff eg viruses that come into the body. True?

Cancer cells are not 'foreign'. They are a massive proliferation of some of own body cells (that have made a mistake in the process of division, which is incredibly complex and happens so many times per second that it's hardly surprising that occsionally it goes wrong)

So most of the time our immune system does not destroy our own cells,even cancerous ones, even when it is functioning well. If it did, we would have some sort of auto-immune disease. Our immune system is not designed to recognise the exact type of mutation that leads to cancerous proliferation... expecting it to would be like asking the washing machine to make our toast.

Am I on track here?



The immune system really isn't designed to notice those changes. There are lots of systems that can detect when things are wrong with the cells, and kill them, but they don't always work.

I'll elaborate a bit more on what Dom has said, trying to sound not too scientific (apologies in advance!!!).

The first step to a cell evolving into a tumor is a mutation. This can be caused by uv light, by things from smoke (benzopyrene for example), things in food, things your clothes have been treated with, spices, coulourings, basically lots and lots of things. An important thing to know is that with cancerogenic substances, it's not like with poisons, where you can say "2 mg per pound bodyweight will kill you with 50 % probability". Instead, you may be exposed to a lot and survive, or you may smoke 1 cigarette and be unlucky. But of course, the more stuff you are exposed to, the more likely it is you get some damage.

However, that's no reason to panic. Most of the cancer types occur late in life, and the main reason more and more people get cancer is that people get much older now than they used to.

Now, when that mutation has happened, there are repair mechanisms in the cells. Some of them realise that the DNA doesn't look like it should, and fix it or kill the cell. That's not as bad as you think, one dead cell in an organ won't matter much usually, whereas one sick cell can spread.

If the DNA mutation is not repaired instantly, it's also no need to panic yet. Most mutations are harmless, because not all parts of DNA are actually used in the cell. There are long "non-coding" regions, and most mutations fall into these. Other mutations will make the cell in itself unable to live and therefore the mutation cannot spread. Again other mutations will effect things that don't really matter, let's say the gene for the eye colour is affected in a cell in your toe. That gene is never used there, so it's not a problem.

However, some mutations affect important genes for cell proliferation. Of those genes, there are two types.

1. Tumor suppressor genes.
These genes control and stop things from happening. Let's say the gene is for a protein that stops cells from dividing when they are not supposed to. If that gene is damaged, and the protein isn't produced anymore, cells will divide more than they should, and tumors can develop. Since you have 2 copies of all your genes, with tumor suppressor genes a single mutation will not be a problem since the 2nd copy still ensures that enough of the protein is produced.

An example is the retinoblastoma gene. It is damaged in an inherited disease that results in tumors in children's retinas. Since one copy is damaged by inheritance, it only takes one more mutation to cause trouble, and many kids with these inherited genes develop those tumors.

The p53 Dom has mentioned is another one of these genes. Unfortunately, it is an exception since it consists of 4 units that are produced on their own and then combined. So if 50 % of the units are faulty, chances are you'll not get too many functioning 4-unit-blocks.

2. Protooncogenes.
These are the opposites of tumor suppressor genes. Let's use the example of a gene for a protein in the cell membrane. This protein receives signals from other cells to divide, and passes them on into the cell. If this protein however is mutated so that it's switched on "constantly active" without signals from other cells, it will cause division at the wrong time.

Unlike tumor suppressor genes, you can imagine that with genes that actually promote cell division, 50 % of faulty molecules are enough to cause a problem.

Even with these mutations, there are still chances of the cell being recognised as faulty from within (say p53) or without (since it can change shape and communication with other cells).

More mutations however can lead to the cell being independent of others in terms of growth, or to getting blood vessels to grow inside a tumor and so give it energy necessary for further growth.

The final fatal step is often metastasition (not sure about the word in English... sorry). Basically, the tumor invades surrounding tissues, and blood vessels. Some of the cells of the tumor get carried away in the blood vessel, end up somewhere else, and continue growing there.


Where the immune system might be coming in is in immune therapy for cancer - cancer cells produce a different set of proteins on their outside than normal cells. Big efforts are made to decipher that set and to vaccinise the body against those proteins.

Unfortunately, at the moment, in many countries people are only allowed to try it out on cases where the best type of therapy would be too late, so it's hard to say if it's a promising attempt or not, unless laws change and people can volunteer for it.

Unfortunately again, people rather volunteer for buying super-herbal remedies or magic pills. I've seen both cases - I have had to translate for a friend's parents how to make special herbal remedy (1000 quid per package, to be brewed by full moon, and to be put into new never-used glass bottles that of course aren't included in the 1000 quid). Other people try and sell stuff (for similar prices) that everybody produces in their own body anyway and that has nothing whatsoever to do with cancer, but also heals Alzheimer, diabetes, Parkinson and makes your bad back better. It's bad enough when you put an amino acid you get from food into shampoo and sell it as something special, but at least that doesn't cost thousands and plays with people's lives.

RNAi is a very interesting field, but at the moment it's more used to make transgenic animals than anything else. To experiment with certain genes and see what would happen if they were treated in an attempt to cure illnesses, you have to aim to knock them out (=make them dysfunctional), but not other genes. Usually you can do that with mouse/rat embryos, but some genes are so essential for life that the animals wouldn't have a chance to grow up. So injecting the RNAi will knock out the gene after the animal has developed.

Sorry everyone for the novel smile

Doc, a guy in my lab gave a good (understandable) introduction on RNAi a while ago, pm me if you want the power point and I'll ask him smile


"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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newgabe
newgabe

what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
Location: Bali
Member Since: 3rd Mar 2005
Total posts: 4030
Posted:Excellent!

.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....

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LMSP
LMSP

veteran

Member Since: 23rd Aug 2005
Total posts: 1588
Posted:I'm not as scared of going to get my new "lump" checked over now. (Hope it's be9 like my other one)
Still terrified of having anothed biopsy thingy tho because last time they missed the tumor and jabbed my poor boobie 4 times frown


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blu_valley
blu_valley

fluffy mess
Location: Brighton
Member Since: 8th Apr 2005
Total posts: 197
Posted:Never be afraid to go and get any oddities checked,rather be a hypocondriac than a person full of regret in times to come.

Im sure its fine, but hug and good luck.


"I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.." - Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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LMSP
LMSP

veteran

Member Since: 23rd Aug 2005
Total posts: 1588
Posted:Gonna pull my finger out and make an appointment this week. It's grown so I need to sort it out!

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blu_valley
blu_valley

fluffy mess
Location: Brighton
Member Since: 8th Apr 2005
Total posts: 197
Posted:About bloody time Marie...

"I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.." - Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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Kieron
Member

Member Since: 20th Jul 2005
Total posts: 232
Posted:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9138-cells-from-mutant-mice-kill-cancers.html
br>
The mostly cancer immune mice could lead to interesting things if they can identify exactly what it is that makes them so.


"I'm quite good at darts, though i often miss" - Kylie

"I'm not a bad driver, I just panic when theres other cars around" - Sarah

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newgabe
newgabe

what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
Location: Bali
Member Since: 3rd Mar 2005
Total posts: 4030
Posted:Thanks for posting that. I have just been in a bit of MSNalogue with someone who was telling me all about how I should boost my immune system to avoid cancer. I gave her a brief digest of the Birgit post and that shooshed her for a bit wink Now I get to tell her that an immune system that can do what she thinks it can would be a mutation. And that even if such strains exist in humans, writing words on yr water bottle isn't going to make it YOU.

.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....

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Motley
Motley

addict
Location: UK
Member Since: 9th Oct 2005
Total posts: 434
Posted: Written by: Doc Lightning


Ok, done a bit of reading and now I have a taste of what this is about.

It's interesting stuff, this RNAi bidnezz. However, the problem is that you have to get each and every cell to express an siRNA specific against the mRNA you want to destroy. That's gene therapy.

It does show us how we could use gene therapy to treat a virus or cancer. However, it doesn't help us with the overriding problem of gene therapy: how to get a gene into every cell in the first place.

Methinks me has more reading to do. Thanks again, Sparkey. You're helping me stay up to date. hug2

Just to give you an idea of what I'm wading through:

 Written by: Gadkari DA, Indian J Med Res 121, March 2005, pp 147-150

JC virus, a member of the genus polyomavius, causes progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. It is also activated in immunocompromised hosts, such as AIDS patients. Human astrocyte cells were transfected with siRNAs directed against T antigen or agnoprotein coding mRNAs. Individually, siRNAs were partially effective but combined treatment of both siRNAs completely abolished JC virus capsid protein production. Similarly, siRNAs mediated inhibition of viral capsid protein VP1 and agnoprotein resulted in marked inhibition of JC virus production in human glial cells.



Actually, a very clear and well-written review. biggrin



Quite a coincidence, I was reading about siRNA (small interfering) only last week at work as an aside for a review I was writing. I'll dig out the papers later and have a slightly more in depth look. They certainly look like they have a lot of potential for various indications as well as research applications.

Motley


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BansheeCat
veteran
Location: lost
Member Since: 29th Jul 2005
Total posts: 1247
Posted:Doc, I think really it might be a terminology thing...

The "cure for cancer" is a nice short catchy phrase to use for the public. But the people using it may actually be rallying people for something not so neatly articulated, something like" trying to raise general awareness and significant funds for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of what cancer is and how it works within our bodies , with the intention of then determining how to diagnose its multiple forms rapidly and effectively --at the same time discovering the range of various things that be done/used to prevent it, and /or recover from the damage it creates . "

Which simply does not read as nicely as " Search for a Cure " now does it?;)

I found the courses on cancer absolutely fascinating, one of the best parts of my university program. The research was so cutting edge, it felt like being an oncologist could be the modern equivelent of some kind of intrepid explorer, bravely venturing into uncharted territory " there be dragons..."

On a simpler day to day level, I find it fascinating that we do know so many concrete things that we could do to avoid some known risks, and simply dont do them. Like we want the big rescue formula, but somehow the in between steps are beyond us to manage. I can't even tell you how frustrating it was to have people come in to our pharmacy wanting to buy a magic supplement to deal with the consequences of their smoking and drinking habits... And it had to be something they could take only once a day,cost less than ten bucks, and work without any diet or exercise changes...


"God *was* my co-pilot, but then we crashed, and I had to eat him..."

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TinyPixie
TinyPixie

enthusiast
Location: in the clouds...
Member Since: 19th Apr 2006
Total posts: 394
Posted:Hi everyone!
Now, I think that politicians rallying for a "cure for cancer" and waging a war on cancer is just a way of making themselves appear proactive and getting more votes. However, as much as this bothers me because it spawns followers, like the raw veg lady and other "alternative health" practitioners (nb: i have nothing against alternative health, only against those who insult western medical techniques without knowing anything about them) , it bothers me more because I believe that all this pseudo-pharmacology talk leads us to neglect other more important factors involved in the support of cancer patients.

What steps does the government take to change our perception of cancer? what steps does it take to make sure cancer patients live happier lives (no matter the duration) free from social stigma? NONE. Because these are just not "sexy" areas for research or funding. However, just the way we regard illnesses such as cancer in society can have a huge effect on the response of a patient to their diagnoses and treatment, as well as side-effects. The way we talk about cancer (metaphors such as: eating away, attacking, etc.. and us waging a war against it) reveal how we think about cancer culturally: we are not inclined to accept it, even when treatments do not work. In fact, we say that patients FAILED treatment. Why are we blaming people? I don't think this is a good way of dealing with such an important life event. Ok, I'm off the soap box nowsoapbox
What does everyone else think?


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