Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells are aggressive, invasive, and sometimes metastatic (spread to other locations in the body). These three “malignant properties of cancers” differentiate them from benign tumors, which are self-limited in their growth and don’t invade or metastasize (although some benign tumor types are capable of becoming malignant). Cancer may affect people at all ages, even fetuses, but risk for the more common varieties tends to increase with age. Cancer causes about 13% of all deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, 7.6 million people died from cancer in the world during 2007. Apart from humans, forms of cancer may affect other animals and plants.
Nearly all cancers are caused by abnormalities in the genetic material of the transformed cells. These abnormalities may be due to the effects of carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, chemicals, or infectious agents. Other cancer-promoting genetic abnormalities may be randomly acquired through errors in DNA replication, or are inherited, and thus present in all cells from birth. Complex interactions between carcinogens and the host genome may explain why only some develop cancer after exposure to a known carcinogen.
New aspects of the genetics of cancer pathogenesis, such as DNA methylation, Helicobacter pylori, and microRNAs are increasingly being recognized as important. But now there is newer information.
Genetic abnormalities found in cancer typically affect two general classes of genes. Cancer-promoting oncogenes are often activated in cancer cells, giving those cells new properties, such as hyperactive growth and division, protection against programmed cell death, loss of respect for normal tissue boundaries, and the ability to become established in diverse tissue environments. Tumor suppressor genes are often inactivated in “cancer cells”, resulting in the loss of normal functions in those cells, such as accurate DNA replication, control over the cell cycle, orientation and adhesion within tissues, and interaction with protective cells of the immune system.
Cancer is usually classified according to the tissue from which the cancerous cells originate, as well as the normal cell type they most resemble. These are location and histology, respectively. A definitive diagnosis usually requires the histologic examination of a tissue biopsy specimen by a pathologist, although the initial indication of malignancy can be symptoms or radiographic imaging abnormalities. Most cancers can be treated and some cured, depending on the specific type, location, and stage. Once diagnosed, cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As research develops, treatments are becoming more specific for different varieties of cancer.Adenocancer (stomach, breast, colon, prostate, etc.) is treated with an antibiotic and anti-Helicobacter vaccine, Recombivax.
There has been significant progress in the development of targeted therapy drugs that act specifically on detectable molecular abnormalities in certain tumors, and which minimize damage to normal cells. The prognosis of cancer patients is most influenced by the type of cancer, as well as the stage, or extent of the disease. In addition, histologic grading and the presence of specific molecular markers can also be useful in establishing prognosis, as well as in determining individual treatments.
Other components of cancer treatment are in the The Bannost Plan elsewhere on this website.
BREAST CANCER SCREENING
BREAST CANCER SCREENING. A novel mammograhic system called stereoscopic digital mammography improves accuracy by 40% to 50%. However, in my opinion, blood testing with Ca 27-29s serially will be the better screening technique, with this newer radiologic technique entering the detection system in follow up prior to doing breast MRIs. For more information on breast cancer screening services, contact us.
SATB1 Gene/Breast Cancer
A team of researchers at Berkeley, California, has demonstrated a protein crucial to the development of the immune system, named SATB1. This master protein orchestrates gene expression, determining whether they are activated or repressed. It regulates an Interleukin-2 receptor gene. Interleukin-2 levels can be measured in reference labs by a blood test. Medications that decrease inflammation lower Interleukin 2 levels. The SATB1 gene causes breast cancer to metastasize (spread) to other organs and thereby kill the host. Less than 10% of women with metastatic breast cancer survive a decade; just over a quarter make it past 5 years. But what turns SATB1 on during the course of breast cancer progression? This is not yet known. We do however from a practical point of view know how to lower or raise Interleukin-2 levels.
BAD FOR SMOKERS. Beta carotene has both benefits and risks. An eighteen year study of 6,000 men using beta carotene showed that it slowed cognitive decline, improved memory, and improved fluency. It does, however, increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
WEIGHT GAIN AFTER CANCER. Weight gain after breast cancer diagnosis ups the mortality risk by 14% according to a study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This brings up an interesting question. Since a weight control drug called Acomplia seems effective in treating both conditions, is there a common link?
INACCURATE CANCER TEST. By far the most frequent false positive screening test for cancer is a flexible sigmoidoscopy, according to a study at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. This is true for both men and women