Monthly Archives: February 2014

What’s in a name? It’s personal and it’s precise

There is a great debate raging among cancer research leaders around the country.

  • It is not about whether this is an incredible time in cancer research that is fundamentally changing our understanding of cancer – we all see advances being made in our centers every day.
  • It is not about whether this enhanced understanding of cancer will change how we approach cancer medicine – we all see research advances that have resulted in dramatic improvements in how we treat many of our patients, and many more are on the way.
  • It is not about whether some cancers have proven to be incredibly difficult to treat – we all know there are some types of cancer where progress has been devastatingly slow.
  • It is not about whether increased funding for cancer research would speed up progress against cancer – we all agree that increased funding is needed to accelerate progress, particularly for the most refractory cancers.

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Mutations – beyond the X-Men

This week, I have been reviewing research grant applications for the National Cancer Institute, including a number of grants proposing detailed evaluation of the gene mutations that can cause cancer. After spending hours looking at figures and data, I needed a break from mutations and decided to watch a movie.  One that has been on my “I should see that someday” list for some time is “X-men.”   So much for taking a break from mutations.  For those of you who are not familiar with “X-men,” it features a group of mutant humans with unique powers.   There are good mutants and bad mutants, epic battles, heroes and villains, etc., etc.   I won’t go into the details of the plot, but simply say it is worth seeing if you like special effects and over-the-top science fiction action, but not so much if you are a stickler for scientific plausibility.

Nevertheless, the movie certainly solidified “mutations” as my theme for the day, and got me thinking about the nugget of scientific truth that is the basis of the movie’s plot – namely the good and bad of mutations.  So … I will put Wolverine, Sabertooth, and Magneto on hold for a moment, and talk about actual mutations. Continue reading

Can we ‘prevent’ cancer?

Is preventing cancer possible? Two announcements on opposite sides of the equation made me think a lot about cancer prevention this week.

The giant pharmacy chain CVS made the brave announcement that they will stop selling tobacco products even though sale of such products contributes to their financial bottom line. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable cancer deaths. Reducing the convenience of buying tobacco is an effective way of reducing use. The CVS announcement was greeted by well-deserved and enthusiastic approval from a number of cancer organizations including the American Association for Clinical Research, The Association of American Cancer Institutes, the American Cancer Society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Continue reading