Tag Archives: Genetics

Is Cancer Inevitable? New Research Suggests a More Hopeful Future Part II

Gene and Cell Therapy
Gene and Cell Therapy

When George Johnson, author of The Cancer Chronicles suggested in the New York Times that cancer is inevitable (see our previous post), he echoed a common belief: that as we age our bodies accumulate an increasing number of potentially cancerous mutations that will eventually catch up to us if we live long enough. In other words, if you don’t die of something else, cancer will get you in the end.

That’s a depressingly defeatist attitude that the cancer specialists at Issels cancer treatment centers reject. In more than 60 years of experience treating cancer with integrative immunotherapy, our staff and our patients have found many reasons to be hopeful about the eventual development of a cancer cure. Advanced immunotherapy and targeted cancer therapies have produced some remarkable results in our ongoing battle against cancer.

Cancer mortality rates in the U.S. have been declining slowly but steadily since the War Against Cancer was launched. According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent annual report, the average American’s risk of dying from cancer has decreased 20% over the past two decades. But the fact remains that cancer risk increases with age.

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center has found that, contrary to current thinking, cancer risk is not increased by years of accumulated mutations, but by tissue changes that occur as we age. As lead researcher James DeGregori, Ph.D., explained to Medical News Today:

“If you look at Mick Jagger in 1960 compared to Mick Jagger today, it’s obvious that his tissue landscape has changed. And it’s this change, not the accumulation of cancer-causing mutations, that drive cancer rates higher as we grow older.”

More on this startling discovery and what it means next time.

Is Cancer Inevitable?

Future Cancer Prevention Techniques
Future Cancer Prevention Techniques

That cancer risk increases with age is a statistical truth. But does this mean that cancer is inevitable, as George Johnson recently suggested in the New York Times? In an article that has generated a fair amount of debate, the author of The Cancer Chronicles implies that cancer might be a necessary part of a larger plan.

“The rhetoric about the war on cancer implies that with enough money and determination, science might reduce cancer mortality as dramatically as it has with other leading killers – one more notch in medicine’s belt. But what, then, would we die from?”

Like many others, Johnson seems to believe that the simple act of living longer gives cancer cells more time to develop. The very nature of cell replication opens the door to cancer in what Johnson calls “the result of a basic evolutionary compromise.”

“As the body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA. … They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur.”

When the body fails to repair these genetic “glitches,” cancer cells can develop. “As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations,” Johnson says. “Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you.”

Johnson does recognize that progress against cancer is being made. “New immune system therapies that bolster the body’s own defenses have shown … promise,” he notes, also mentioning the potential of targeted genetic therapy and nano robots to advance the cancer fight to the next level. But at the end, even if we can extend our lives into a second century, Johnson believes, “waiting at the end will be cancer.”

Next time: A different view: Hope IS warranted