#1 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, September 24th, 2013 10:38
#2 By: Joshua Hutchinson, September 24th, 2013 10:50
Sounds like how vaccines work. Couldn't this, then, work similarly as a cancer vaccine? It can't be that easy, though, right?
#3 By: Mike Robinson, September 24th, 2013 11:10
I'm sure knowing this about myself would keep me up at night.
"Hey, remember all those times you almost had leukemia?"
#4 By: snig, September 24th, 2013 11:15
It's been known for a while that the immune system/DNA repair system is working against potentially cancerous processes, and the vast majority of time is effective in preventing it from progressing. I always felt it neat that most of the time we're our own cure for cancer.
#5 By: Cynthia Bonville, September 24th, 2013 11:23
I have been wondering for a year or so about lupus actually, in that those with it tend to have a higher incidence of cancer and I wonder if the immune response that is overactive in lupus is just because the body had previously fought off cancers.
#6 By: incarnedine_v, September 24th, 2013 12:01
Well, there already are immunotherapy options available now, but cancer cells are rarely alike, so it's not like you can just make a universal cure.
#7 By: Joe Castleman, September 24th, 2013 12:30
I was thinking along the same lines. The idea should make me feel better, but it doesn't.
#8 By: Anthony Vicari, September 24th, 2013 12:47
Yes, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_immunotherapy
Basically they have to extract the relevant antigens from your own cancerous cells (or make the antibodies in the lab some other way customized for each patient), then use them to coerce your immune system to produce antibodies against them even though they would normally be marked as belonging to your own body. Because of that last part, it's trickier than a normal vaccine against foreign entities.
I didn't end up becoming an immunologist, but I spent a couple of summers working on leukemia immunotherapy research. Fascinating stuff.
#9 By: Alice Weir, September 24th, 2013 13:07
Yes - absolutely fascinating! I had just been reading that at John Hopkins, there has been a lot of work going on with TGF-beta and its role in creating allergic type responses. Just so happens, TGF-beta is also involved in collagen synthesis. What got me nd some other people I know, is the insane rate of allergy and chemical sensitivities amongst people with heritable connective tissue disorders. Looks like there may be a link there.
And, we get cancer, just like other people. everything I've seen points strongly to an immune-modulated process of some sort. And why not? We already know that some cancers are related to HPV. We know that people with AIDS get opportunistic cancers. It's not a question of whether there is a link between the immune system and cancer, but only a question of exactly how it works. Other recent work at UCSF points to an ability to stop a cancer from metastacizing by interrupting the inflammatory process it thrives on. I see that as another leg in the same process - infections being fought are a source of inflammation, as are various chemical compounds. Sometimes, that inflammatory response is local, sometimes systemic. But the process itself is somewhat universal. If we can interrupt that process by any means at all, we kill off the cancer's natural growth pattern. So there are two possible entry points there - prevention via immunization, and interruption via therapy for the inflammatory process (es).
I'm not at all worried to think that we all get cancerous or pre-cancerous cells that get killed off. Rather, I'm extremely hopeful about where present research efforts are headed, It may take some time to work the details out - but as a cancer patient myself, I see any approach which ends the vile and barbaric practice of poisoning people with radiation and chemotherapies (which can both be carcinogenic, themselves!) as wonderful progress!
[It's not an intellectual pastime with me - it's real life or death stuff. But you know what? It doesn't do the least bit of good to stay up nights over imagined occurrences or actual occurrences. Either way, you just lose sleep and solve nothing. Instead of wondering whether the glass is really half full or half empty, you should just be saying, "Wow! Check it out! I've got a glass!"]
#10 By: Anthony Vicari, September 24th, 2013 13:42
Yeah, the professor I was working with always said we've all got a handful or precancerous, and probably cancerous, cells in us all the time. What's remarkkable is that our immune system is good enough to keep them in check for 60-90 years in almost all cases.
#11 By: Alice Weir, September 24th, 2013 19:13
Yes, exactly! It's really pretty cool, and we've already got it. Just a matter of teasing out the details a little better. So many times, it seems the answer isn't apparent when we pose a positive question like - how do you find cancer? A better question may be, how come some people don't get cancer? And I'm impressed that new ideas are getting brought up with new crops of students asking and looking around. (If I had it all to do over again, I think I'd have a pretty hard time keeping my mitts out of the genomics game, or similar, lol. Geek heaven.)
#12 By: Stehler, September 24th, 2013 21:54
Other evidence points to the likely reality that we all develop, at one time or another during our lives, cancerous cells but that probably most often never going to harm a person in significant ways. Autopsy studies, for instance, found that quite a number of deceased people had some type of cancer in their body, independent from what caused the death of the person. Unfortunately, this data isn't recognized properly by the medical orthodoxy. Many so-called breast cancers, detected by diagnostic screening tests such as mammography, are non-cancers (read Rolf Hefti's ebook "The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn't Want You To Know About"). Worse, the medical profession tends to treat all of these "cancers" with invasive cancer therapies, inflicting enormous harm to women.
#13 By: Cary, September 25th, 2013 22:17
Given that a US male has an approx 50/50 chance of developing cancer in their lifetime, that sounds reasonable.
#14 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, September 29th, 2013 10:39
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