Finding A Cure - Cancer
Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 | Blog
Cancer is a scary word; to many it signifies loss and the unknown. When someone is diagnosed with the disease, often they don’t know if they are likely to survive it. The current form of curing cancer, while far more effective than it used to be, is still incredibly harmful to the body. Chemotherapy involves the circulation of cell-killing toxins called cytotoxics; they attack and kill cancer cells present in the body, whilst also inflicting a range of negative side effects. This is currently the most effective way to kill cancer cells, because cancer cells are normal cells that have lost the ability to control their growth, this makes it hard to distinguish the two apart.
Precision Medicine sounds like a cliche marketing slogan, but it is actually the next big breakthrough in medical science. As it currently stands, medicine is often subject to a one size fits all model, it doesn’t take into account the individual DNA of patients because the resources have not been available to accommodate it. Precision Medicine is just this, rather than designing drugs to a one size fits all mentality, drugs are instead designed to best take advantage of individual people's DNA, taking family histories into account. Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean each individual person is going to have medicine designed for them, but it instead means that medicine can be designed for a group of people with similar DNA traits.
Targeting medicine like this is great for targeting cancer as the cells that form cancer are already within the human body. This is what makes curing it so hard as the body can not detect which cells are cancerous, with precision medicine the body would be more effective at singling the cancerous cells out, therefore increasing the chances of beating the disease by looking for the root cause. This looks to be the future of medicine because the USA has already invested a significant amount in researching it and making it a reality. Analysing cancers in this manner would lead to more targeted medicine, meaning the currently established cures are likely to be far more effective in lower amounts. So chemotherapy would likely still be used, but in a much lower amount, with a far higher rate of effect.
Epigenetics sounds like something featured in a sci-fi film and in all honesty, it is pretty impressive. Epigenetics is about altering the behaviour of cells in the body, turning off certain behaviours or traits, which can help change how the body reacts to certain cells. There are various different cures under the epigenetics branch but an example of how it would work might be the fact that it changes the behaviour of certain cancerous cells in order to make them far more visible to the immune system, this in turn makes any medication used to treat the disease far more effective as it works in tandem with the immune system. Similar to precision medicine, it really is about changing the environment around the disease rather than trying to cure the disease itself.
Unlike common cells, cancer cells rely on glucose to help feed their mutation. There aren’t many unique traits of cancerous cells, but this is one that can be utilized to stop the growth of cancer. Cancer cells feed on a chemical called PARP-14, this protein helps cancerous cells accelerate their mutational growth, making it even harder for the current cures to completely eradicate them. Current cures can often remove up to 99% of cancerous cells, but there is often 1% still left; this is bad as it takes just 1% for a person to come out of remission once they have already been through chemotherapy. Glucose starvation attempts to bridge that 1% by removing the cancerous cells ability to grow and multiply, this, alongside other cures, will end up being far more effective, with the aim being to decrease the number of people coming out of remission. The best thing about glucose starvation is that it doesn’t harm normal healthy cells, it only effects those that are cancerous.
Proton Beam Therapy is a form of radiation healing that uses positively charged protons rather than conventional x-rays and gamma rays. The use of positively charged protons reduces the level of radiation that can occur as a side effect, this is because x-rays tend to spill onto other healthy cells whilst attacking the cancer itself. Positively charged protons are far more concentrated, so the side effects of therapy are far lower. It is currently used for very rare cancers that affect parts of the body prone to radiation poisoning, although the research is ongoing and scientists are testing the effects it can have on other cancers. While it’s already being used in other countries, Proton Beam Therapy is not yet fully available within the United Kingdom, but the therapy will be available on the NHS in 2017 with a research centre also opened alongside it.
Cancer is unlike any other disease, most diseases are often defined by one set of traits that affect the human body. Cancer is the collection of 200-300 different forms of cell mutation, all of which have vastly different effects, and all requiring vastly different cures. As it stands we are certainly curing more people than ever before, but this is a result of decades upon decades of research. In 2013 alone, just over 160,000 people died of cancer within the United Kingdom, a figure that could have been double that if not for the survival rate of 50%. This rate used to be much lower, but thanks to the research conducted by various charities and scientists, as a result of donations and support from the public, Cancer is now at a stage where we can look towards a future where it might be curable.
The best cure for cancer is undoubtedly preventing it. Most forms of cancer are preventable, as cancer is often formed due to external radiation or damage to the body. Smoking and obesity are two of the biggest causes of cancer, so all it takes is a little exercise and giving up smoking to effectively decrease the chances of developing cancer.