What is the reason it’s so difficult to fight cancer? We’ve made use of electricity and sequencing our human genome and eliminated small pox. However, after spending millions of dollars of research, we’ve yet to find the cure for this disease that affects over fourteen million individuals and families one moment.
Cancer develops when normal cells undergo mutations. Most times cells are able to detect DNA damage or mutations, and fix the issue or destroy themselves. Certain mutations, however, allow cancerous cells to expand unchecked and infiltrate nearby tissues or even meetastasize to organs that are far away. Cancers can be fatal once they spread. The cancer process is extremely complicated. It’s not a single disease.
There are over 100 types of cancer and there isn’t any magic bullet that will treat all of them. The majority of cancers are treated typically include a combination of surgery to get rid of tumors , as well as chemotherapy and radiation to kill the cancerous cells that remain. Immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted treatments that are specifically designed for specific types of cancer can be used also. In many instances they are successful and the patient is cured of cancer. However, they’re not 100% effective all of the times.
What do we need to discover to find cures for all types of cancer? We’re beginning to comprehend some of the issues researchers will need to resolve. The first is that we require new, more effective methods to study cancer. The majority of cancer therapies are developed by using cell lines that are grown in labs using cultures from human cancers. The cells that are grown in these labs have provided us important insights into cancer biology and genetics however they are not able to replicate many of the details of a tumor that occurs in the real living organism.
There is a tendency to find that the newer drugs, which are based on cell lines that are grown in labs, won’t work in clinical trials using real patients. One of the difficulties of tumors with aggressive characteristics is that they may contain numerous populations of slightly distinct cancerous cells. In time certain genetic mutations are accumulated in the cells of various parts in the tumour, which gives an opportunity for distinct subclones.
For example, brain tumors, also known as glioblastomas, can be composed of up to six distinct subclones in one patient. This is known as the clonal heterogeneity. It can make treatment challenging because a treatment that works on one subclone could be ineffective on another.
Another issue. Tumors are a constantly interconnected system in which cancer cells are constantly communicating with each other as well as with healthy cells around. They can trigger normal cells to create blood vessels that supply the tumor and eliminate debris from the body. They may also work to the immune system, causing it to inhibit its functions, preventing it from recognizing or eliminating the cancer. If we could discover how to block these lines of communication we’d stand a better chance of eliminating a tumor for good.
Furthermore, increasing evidence suggests that we’ll have to find a way to eliminate the cancer-causing stem cells. They’re rare, but they appear to possess special characteristics that render them insensitive to radiation and chemotherapy.
Theoretically, even if the rest the tumor shrinks to a point that is not detectable after treatment, a single remaining cancer stem cell may be the seed for an entirely new tumor. Finding a way to target these cells can aid in preventing cancers from returning. Even if we have solved these issues, we could encounter new ones.
The cancer cells have mastered the art at adapting, changing their cellular and molecular characteristics to cope with stress. If they’re afflicted by chemotherapy or radiation, some cancer cells are able to activate protective shields against anything that’s attacking them, by altering how they express their genes. Malignant cancers are complicated systems that are constantly evolving and change.
To beat these cancers, we need to discover new systems that can cope with their complexity, as well as monitoring treatments that are able to adapt as cancer progresses. The good news is that we’re making strides. Even in spite of all that we don’t know about, the death rate of the most types of cancer has decreased substantially since the 1970s, and continues to decline. Every day we learn more every new bit of knowledge gives us more option to include in our arsenal.