Cancer New Paradigm
For more than a century, cancers have been classified by the organ or tissue where they begin.
The breast, lungs, bone marrow, digestive system, and so on – and therapies have been geared to those specific areas. Fortunately, as we’ve learned more about the basic biological processes at work in cancer, a new perspective has emerged.
In contrast to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which traditionally affect normal cells as well as cancer cells, targeted therapies can be more effective and less harmful to the patient because they specifically act on cancer cells.
Personalize the dosing and the drug to the disease and to the patient. Researchers use what are called biomarkers. In the case of cancer, biomarkers refer to substances, produced by cancer cells or the body in response to cancer, that identify or “mark” the specific type of cancer a patient has. They can be measured by blood, urine, and tissue tests.
A New Paradigm
Our best way of understanding cancer is to understand the cell network as a whole and how it interacts. This requires a holistic study of interactions in biological systems, looking at cancer in its entirety and at how the different cell processes influence each other.
A Fearless Future
We have common ways of thinking that have been with us for decades, and we’re not likely to give them up immediately. The fear to change the mindset of treatment by using all these innovations and discoveries, we need to be looking at cancer in a totally different way.
Our growing understanding of cancer cell biology should lead to better ways of diagnosing and treating this disease.
Anticancer therapies can be designed to destroy cancer cells preferentially by exploiting the properties that distinguish them from normal cells, including the defects they harbor in their DNA repair mechanisms, cell-cycle checkpoints, and apoptosis pathways. Tumors can also be attacked through their dependence on their blood supply. By understanding the normal control mechanisms and exactly how they are subverted in specific cancers, it becomes possible to devise drugs to target cancers more precisely. As we become better able to determine which genes are amplified, which are deleted, and which are mutated in the cells of any given tumor, we can begin to tailor treatments more accurately to each individual patient.
References: Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. Cancer Treatment: Present and Future. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26811/