Do you think we will ever find a cure for cancer or are scientists better off focusing on preventative awareness?
I could write a book about this, but I don’t have the time or attention span at the moment, so I’ll give you the quick version.
Mots of people people probably don’t want to hear this, but I sit in the camp that believes we will never cure cancer. I feel this way for several reasons:
- There is no such thing as “cancer”. Cancer is really hundreds of individual diseases each with its own individual cause, be it environment or mutation or whatever. Some are due to viral infections, some are due to mutations in cell growth signals, some are due to chromosomes falling apart and re-attaching in ways that creates never-before seen genes. And that’s just three ways it can happen! And those represent hundreds of individual changes in each category! And that’s just cancers we know the cause of!
- Even if we could perfectly deconstruct a single type of cancer, and design a drug to fight it, cancer is living. And therefore constantly evolving. Inside of a tumor, tens or hundreds or thousands of different sub-populations of cells can form, each with their own batch of mutations. What kills 90% may do nothing to the other 10%. When the “genomes” inside a tumor were recently sequenced, they discovered it was like a population unto itself.
- Which leads me to detection. If a tumor isn’t the same on the inside, then it isn’t the same on the outside. Cancer therapies rely on early detection. But if you’re looking for Villain A, Villain B might slip through your tests. And like we just saw, tumors are full of unknown Villains B-Z.
- Many cancers are sporadic. It sucks, but sometimes cancer just pops up out of nowhere. New mutations, new gene combinations, new infections. We can’t predict them, so we can’t cure them.
I know this is super-downer, because everyone wants to think that cancer is curable. It isn’t. But individual cancers will one day be made curable. That’s why we should do what we can for the types we understand, and realize that this is the beginning of a long battle with the foundations of our very biological makeup. Prevention will do more than anything in reducing cancer deaths (Editorial comment: stop tanning and smoking), but continued research will lead us to a point where we can at least cure some cancers.
Don’t let that discourage you, scientists of the future. Let it motivate you!