Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Have care for trillion cells:your body.

How many cells in you are really healthy and how many are in the process of going to mutate and turn cancerous, daily?

If you have cancer, you feel that you are in the power of two worlds.

1.The first is the world of research.

In the news, on the Net, there is scarcely a week without some breakthrough or lead. An we read about new research facilities:
Behind new brick walls in Germany-town, Maryland, drills whirr and saws whine as workers put finishing touches on a laboratory unlike any ever built.
By the same waters of San Francisco bay, USA, rises the steel skeleton of a new university research center. (Source:International Herald Tribune, 10 February 2001)

2. The second world that cancer patients have to face is meetings with a consultant.

Two people in a room.
Probably not by an azure bay.

Each of these worlds is, at the least, puzzling for a cancer patient.

Look at research first. I am not trying to give an appraisal of cancer research but a sketch of how the world of research appears. Thanks to the multimedia, media, Internet, cancer patients and family and friends are now better informed than our forefathers.mothers once were, but I doubt if we are less confused. More information or data does not implied better in this case.

USA President Richard Nixon declared ' war' on cancer in 1971 with an initial government allocation of US$500 million per year.
By 1976 this was US$1 billion, and by 1996 US$2 billion. There is also 'the lure of gigantic profits through patenting laboratory processes'.

Each of us, however, is more than ten thousand billion cells, a number that vastly exceeds the mind's ability to grasp. And a high proportion of these living cells - arguably all - have the capacity to over-produce and cause cancer. You can even ask a devil's question : why is cancer not more common?

Given the trillions of cells in the human body, is it not a wonder that cancer does not erupt often during our long lives? (Robert Weinberg, One Renegade Cell, p.3)

There is the Human Genome project. We read that its aim is to analyse our genetic structure, and to catalogue and map all the individual genes in the body. Still ongoing. The completion of the Genome Project is a new era of hope (or curse) according to the press, and not just the popular press:

The monumental advances in molecular oncology and in understanding the human Genome are leading to an explosion of new and novel therapeutic agents . . . (Clinical Cancer Research, February 2001, p.229)

' Even now, result that hold promise of new cancer treatments are very, very rare.'-( Axel Ullrich, Director of the Department for Molecular Biology, at Max Planck Institute.)

And when asked about the completion of the human Genome project, he replies:
' What does it mean when we sat that the human genome is completed? It is not completed. three billion nucleotides, which is three(3) times the size of the human genome, have been sequenced, but we do not have complete genes and the sequences have not been identified . . . the next step will take a long time and cannot be done by computers.' (The Lancet, Oncology, 1 September 2000, p.52)

You may read a sharp remark:
In commercial terms, the return on our huge investment has been feeble: if cancer research had been a business, the shareholders would have sacked the management and changed the strategy long ago. (Your Life in Your Hands,p.10) This is by Professor Jane Plant, a professor of soil chemistry who was herself a cancer patient.

Or you may come across a report of Dr Vincent DeVita, the director of the Yale Cancer Centre and a former director of the National cancer Institute : ' Within 15-20 years, I think cancer will become just another chronic, survivable disease, much like hypertension or diabetes.' All these can change if only the present scientists change the solid paradigm to solvent paradigm in medical research for human body.
Dr Judah Folkman of Boston, is also of the view that ' we may be able to convert cancer into a survivable disease'. Instead of curing cancer these figure just merely concern with maintaining cancer to be 'survivable disease'. Sad attitude for the medical community and the public at large, indeed.

The technology of the human genome project pales in comparison to what is required for the next stage . . . ' Scale is important because the size of the problem is very large,' said Frank Gleeson, head of MDS Proteomic. 'It's not for the faint of heart.' (International Herald Tribune, 10 February 2001)

But some writers put the costs in perspective. The United States federal government, before the credit crunch events, now budgets annually US$3.5 billion on cancer, also pharmaceutical companies spend in excess of US$10 billion on research.
But the National Institute of Health puts the cost of cancer i the US alone in 2000 at US$180 billion : US$60 billion of medical costs, US$15 billion lost productivity through illness, US$105 billion due to premature death. So major investment is not only of place in purely economic terms.

In another ares of thought, you may read that scientists once thought there were 200 or so different cancer based on there they appear in the body: lymphoma in the lymph etc. But when cancers are categorized by their genetic abnormalities, the umber is over 2000.

It is also a fact that fourteen(14) out of fifteen(15) new cancer drugs have been abandoned during clinical trials.

'What is Joe Public, referring to you and me who trust the experts for answer, supposed to make of it all?' asks Mel Greave, a Professor of cell Biology at the Institute of Cancer research, London. He does not offer an answer but, in his own words, 'a flavour of the challenge ahead' (Cancer: The Evolutionary Legacy, p.248)

Such is the complexity of cancer.

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