Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cancer.  It seems to have been around forever.  Too many people die from cancer.  Even the healthy ones die from cancer.  It seems that billions of dollars have been poured into cancer research and still too many people die from the disease.  It is almost as bad as Jerry Lewis’s telethon that went on each year to support research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy.  Each year he would collect millions of dollars from seemingly everybody to donate any amount of money any he collected multi millions of dollars every year for that cause.  All they ever accomplished was getting a faster wheelchair for people suffering from that disease.

With cancer, the treatments are very evasive and then you die.  I understand that patience is all that we have.  Hope for cures is our dream.  But did you know that it has been 43 years since President Nixon signed   legislation in   effect   declaring   war on Cancer?  It is similar to the terrorist situation.  How do you declare war on something that doesn’t wear a uniform and   something   you are   not quite sure where it comes   from.   We are barely one step ahead of the terrorist and seemingly two steps behind cancer.  Despite progress on many fronts the war wages on full force. There was 600,000 fatalities in this country last year alone.  We are losing the battle to cancer.

There is a promising new weapon coming from a tiny creature with a  life span so short it is somehow helping in the science of genetics.  There are persist anti  cancer patients who refuse to give up and wait to die after all conventional treatments have failed to save their lives.  They are usually the healthy  people who still get the deadly disease anyway.  They have the courage  to seek the unconventional treatments.  The   newest weapon in the battle against cancer is the fruit fly.  I kid you not.  I remember having   to have to count those little bastards in my Biology 101 class in college.  Those were the days when I thought I would have the stomach to be a doctor of medicine.

This new weapon is to genetically engineer a fruit fly with your cancer in it. An experiment with every possible drug imaginable to find the perfect   cocktail to cure your illness.  It is a lofty goal for the lowly fruit fly.  In the fight for cancer treatments will this new unconventional approach be the answer?  Who knows.  This is a war we haven’t finished fighting yet.  The  people who have been battling cancer and had been resistant to standard treatments hope this new thing will work.  Many people have gone through radiation and chemotherapy and at  the end of the day they die.  Well this  pattern has to stop.

When the bill was signed in 1971 there were actually Congressmen who were predicting that there would be an end to Cancer by the Bicentennial in 1976.  We haven’t even come close to finding the end to cancer says the American cancer society’s chief medical officer, Doctor Otis Brawly.  Cancer is still the number two killer of people in the United States only  out ranked by cardiovascular disease.  Over the next decade or so  they predict that cancer  will become the number one disease.  It was the number one killer in 1971. There is some good news though, since 1991 breast cancer deaths are down 35%.  So are deaths from collo-rectal cancer.  That is thanks largely to  screening not to any miracle cure.  The biggest promise now is it's so called personalized care.  It is based on the finding that the genetic mutations causing the cancer vary   from person to person.  In this way they can target   what’s causing the cancer and blast it with   whenever they got.

It is a fruit fly geneticists that is now creating the first personalized fruit fly to be used in research.  Using the now cancerous fly, they try thousands of drug combinations to see if the cancer goes away.  What is different is that they can approach the cancer with a kind of recklessness.  If their newest cocktail doesn’t work they can simply try again and not have to worry about further damage to the patient.  They throw any FDA approved drugs  at the fly as well as other cancer drugs to see what happens.  There now exists the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapeutics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It  has taken genetic doctors from just doing laboratory experiments to be dealing with individuals.

The new center is bound to help many people. It has to. These are people who have already tried conventional treatments.  So the battle forges on even though  President Nixon has died as well. 

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