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No disease inspires more fear and dread than cancer.
There’s something quite unnerving about your own body destroying itself.
What’s worse, cancer survival rates tend to be quite poor for the majority of people. Yes, survival rates for prostate cancer are high, even with a late diagnosis.
But prostate cancer is more the exception than the rule.
With that said, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of cancer treatment. Here’s why you should be.
A Change In Paradigm
The current model of treatment development sees cancer as a disease in itself, rather than an inevitable consequence of ageing.
As a result, there is a search for cancer-specific therapies that target particular attributes of cancerous cells and disease.
But progressive scientists are beginning to see things differently. They now realize that the number one risk factor for cancer isn’t smoking or eating poorly: it’s getting older.
There is something like a 10,000-fold increase in the risk of getting cancer from someone in their twenties to a person in their eighties.
David Sinclair from Harvard University, for instance, says that science should tackle the ageing process itself. When it does, rates of cancer will plummet naturally, since people simply won’t get old enough to get it.
Having proved the concept in mice, Sinclair says that there are already products on the market which slow down the ageing process.
Perhaps the most dangerous stage of cancer is metastasis.
This is the stage where cancerous cells break away from the original tumor and start to affect unrelated tissues elsewhere in the body.
For years, scientists have been building a cancer model that can effectively model this process. And now they may have finally made a breakthrough.
In the last couple of years, scientists have discovered that metastatic tumor cells like to cling to blood vessels. This allows them to survive as they make their way to new tissues.
For many years, this behavior remained undetected. But now that it has been discovered, it opens up the possibility of new medicines to interrupt the process.
The concept of epigenetics is a slippery one. Your epigenome is the way that your genes express themselves depending on your environment.
For instance, if you eat a diet that is high in fat and sugar, your genes will manifest themselves differently to if you eat vegetables and fruit all day long. Those eating a lot of junk, for instance, are likely to have genes turned on with produce varicose vein, hemorrhoids and maybe gout.
But now scientists realize that they can manipulate the epigenome to help treat cancer. The idea is relatively simple: change the epigenome so that cancer cell start to behave like normal cells again.
It’s important to point out that this type of therapy does not seek to destroy the cancer cells. Instead, it attempts to do pharmacologically what diet and exercise do naturally: switch off cancer cells ability to proliferate.
One drug which turns on a healthy epigenome managed to generate a response rate of 38 per cent in leukemia patients.