The primary purpose for cancer research is to understand the causes. With this knowledge, we can develop measures for prevention, ways of earlier diagnosis, new treatments, and maybe even cures.
Unfortunately, most of the information available about cancer research is written by doctors and scientists, for doctors and scientists. The technical jargon can be confusing. This article’s goal is to give some information on the subject, in more common language.
The most common cancer treatments are:
Surgery- The goal is to completely remove all cancerous tissue, with minimal damage or removal of healthy tissue.
Radiation- This therapy stops growth of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy- Powerful drugs poison the cancer cells. Unfortunately, radiation and chemotherapy destroy the body’s immune system.
Hormone Therapy- Certain hormones have been found to help the immune system fight the cancerous cells.
Immunotherapy- Some of the newest treatments boost the immune system, and even give it specific target cells to attack. If detected early enough, there are reports of this treatment stopping further growth of cancerous cells.
Since the mid- 1990’s, clinical cancer research has mainly focused on biotechnology, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy. These are treatments that alter the body’s functions on a genetic level, programming the immune system to identify certain genes that produce mutated cells, which can become tumors. Once identified, the mutated genes are destroyed by a boosted and programmed immune system.
Oncongenomics is the study to find new types of oncogenes (cancer genes) and tumor suppressor genes. The Cancer Genome Project in 2004 said “a central aim of cancer research has been to identify the mutated genes that are causally implicated in oncogenesis (cancer genes).” They tested 350 different types of tumors, and found 130,000 mutations in 3,000 genes, mostly in tumor suppressor genes. This particular study suggests that perhaps a majority of cancerous tumors are developed by mutation of the genes that are supposed to keep them from growing. In the latter stages, tumors can become resistant to cancer treatments, perhaps because the tumor suppressors are mostly either mutated or destroyed.
Research focusing on causes have isolated cells, called endothelial progenitor cells, which are manufactured in bone marrow. They leave the marrow, entering the bloodstream, and seem important in the development of tumors and the supportive vessel growth. Destruction of the endothelial progenitor cells while they are still in the bone marrow dramatically decreases the growth of tumors.
Most funding for cancer research comes from large institutions and corporations. These funding organizations prefer low-risk small increments of advancements. They often resist innovation that may provide radically new and better treatments, possibly even cures.
For the individual, these are the best ways to decrease risk of cancer:
(1) Eat healthy- There are volumes of information available on this subject. There are some research findings that certain foods or nutrients reduce the risks of cancer.
(2) Be active- This improves overall health and gets the body functioning the way it should.
(3) Get screened- You can’t diagnose yourself. See a doctor regularly. Get checked.
(4) Don’t smoke- There is actually inconsistent research results regarding a definitive link between cigarette smoking and cancer. However, this destructive and addictive substance has no health benefits and increased risks of many health problems. So, why take the chance?
Cancer research is the only way we can fight this killer.