When will cancer be cured?

Derek Lowe has a very good article on cancer in his blog today. His succinct writing style conveys information more clearly in half the words I would use.

A fairly simple concept but one that seems very hard to get across to the lay public is that there is no disease called cancer. Or to be more clear--there's no single disease. What we call cancer is actually not a disease so much as a variety of causes, some understood and some not, which result in uncontrolled growth by cells. As one of the commentators on Derek's blog points out, most of these have a common element of angiogenesis (growth and expansion of blood vessels to 'feed' the tumor) but there's little else in common between cancer types.

Why is this important? Well, often people ask me when my job comes up (cancer research) in conversation if there'll be a cure for cancer soon. But since there's not just one cancer, there can't be one cure. Each type needs to be addressed separately and that means that there is a long, long road ahead of cancer researchers and medical investigators. It also means that anyone giving time estimates for cures is usually engaging in politics not medicine or science--unless they're talking about a cure or treatment for one specific type of cancer.

The reseach I'm engaged in relates to breast cancer and how tumors respond to angiogenesis inhibiting drugs like taxol. These drugs prevent tumors from forming new blood vessels which in turn prevents them from growing. This of course doesn't address metastatic processes--that's another area entirely. Another issue in breast cancer is that a women can have genetically identical tumors decades apart--even when she's been determined to be tumor free after the first incidence of cancer. This indicates that cancer producing tumors exist in a state that can't easily be found, and are metabolically inactive, and that they can stay in that state for long periods of time. Obviously at some point they can become active by inducing angiogenesis. Research is in an early stage at determining how this occurs, why the latency, what signal is made to change the tumor, et cetera.

When will cancer be cured? All I can say is not soon but that there has been a Hell of a lot of progress on many types of cancer and more progress is being made every day.

Comments

dena said…
Interesting. Reading through the eyes of someone diagnosed, treated and "cured" of "cancer"...

I'll be back.

Visiting from Michele's
Hello Michele sent me.
Cin said…
Good morning, the lovely, having-herself-a-birthday-today Michele sent me.

Someone close to me was recently 'cleared' of breast cancer and we're all hoping for the best. You're post is now sending me on yet another search for information.
utenzi said…
It's nice of you all to visit, Dena, Sarah, and Cin. Glad to have you aboard. Congratulations on surviving cancer, Dena. It's a very scary situation to be in.
Pearl said…
Interesting. I knew cancer was of many types and that is rises like a symptom out of many causes and seems immune system related. I hadn't made the connection that it was that much of an umbrella term. I knew some benign growths reappear exactly where they had been once excised but didn't know cancerous growths did as well. You've fleshed out my understanding further. Thanks for that.
GPV said…
Very interesting post on the nonstop fight against cancerous progress in this world.

Why does it start and how come it sometimes stop? Still you keep searching finding answers bit by bit, long studies and long work for pinning down facts that can help treating one cancer or another.
We gather,from what you say,that it's not all for tomorrow.
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