Good Afternoon everyone,
This week I just wanted to make a short opinion piece regarding my take on the outlook for cancer treatment and therapies. Many times we talk about a “cure” for a disease without fully understanding that disease and what a “cure” would look like. I tried to stress this point in the class I taught last year, “Finding the Cure: Methods in Drug Discovery”. For cancer the problem is our own body, not some kind of outside invader, which makes treating and “curing it” very difficult. I’ll make this bold statement here:
I don’t think we can “cure” cancer.
Cancers arise because information in our genes is not transferred from one step to the other correctly. Oncogenes are activated and cell growth overtakes the normal cell cycle. In order to fully “cure” this disease we would have to develop a system that is 100% accurate in translating information from DNA to RNA. Our RNA/DNA polymerases are pretty good but even if they are 99.9999999% accurate this still means that, relative to the vast number of cells in our body, there is a good chance that one or two will become metastatic. The reason these mutations can occur stems from our evolutionary heritage. We developed as organisms that could evolve based on random mutations and sexual reproduction rather than directly sharing genetic information with each other. Even if we could, theoretically, make all of *our* cells perfect replicators remember the fact that there are thousands if not millions of different types of bacteria and microorganisms in our body. Is it possible to stop all of these cells from feeding us potential oncogenes?
Will we all die of cancer then? I believe eventually the answer is yes. If we somehow created a way to extend life beyond the 100-120 years that humanity seems capped at we will all likely develop cancer. Prevention, cures, these are not possible for our human bodies. What we can do, however, is *treat* cancer. The best options, in my opinion, lie in Cancer Immunotherapies, training our bodies to recognize cancer cells and dispose of them quickly. People who would like to say, we need “cures” for cancer and not “treatments” don’t understand the issue or they are willfully ignoring it for their own gain. No drug company has a “cure” for cancer that they are holding back because “treatments” make more money.
Treatments are all we have!
I invite any discussion on this topic about cures versus treatments for cancer. Perhaps the new wave of gene editing technology can allow us to engineer complex human bodies that can resist cancer. I think it’s an inherent part of how we evolved but I would love to hear an opposing view point.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading!