The “undefeatable” cancer: Researchers continue to work on a cure-for-all treatment

February 5, 2020

Despite World Cancer Day earlier this week, a cure for cancer remains to be seen as the disease continues to affect more than 17 million people today. With cancer, normal cells mutate and instead of repairing themselves or self-destructing, these cells continue to reproduce without control and invade surrounding tissues or travel to other parts of the body. As cancer thrives, it is nearly impossible to cure – there are hundreds of different variants of can cells that are constantly evolving and resistant to treatment, however aggressive.

Currently, cancer cases are treated with a mix of tumour-removal surgery and radiation therapy, to some success. Patients may otherwise undergo hormone therapies, immunotherapy or customised treatments targeted at specific cancers. The lucky ones will be free of the disease and can go on to live long and happy lives.

But some aren’t so lucky – treatments can fail and the cancer will continue to ravage the body.

The primary concerns for cancer research, then, is the need for improved methods of studying cancer while it’s still inside a living organism; and preventing cancer from manipulating healthy cells into doing their will.

A majority of treatments are found through study of cancer cells in labs.Unfortunately, drugs that kill cancer cells in labs may not work on a living patient.As tumours in the human body, cancer cells are very devious– some tumours mutate and spread quickly and aggressively. A single tumour could have different parts consisting of cancer cells with their own distinct mutations, so one part could potentially be treated, but not the rest of it.

Tumours are also capable of creating and maintaining its own environment inside the body, with cancer cells communicating with each other and with nearby non-cancerous cells. Normal cells are regularly manipulated to form blood vessels that feed the tumour and remove its waste products. What is most concerning is that the tumour can suppress the immune system, keeping itself safe from detection/destruction and ensuring its survival.

In addition to the complexity of tumours, increasing evidence also proposes that cancer stem cells need to be dealt with just as efficiently, as cancer stem cells are resistant to many treatments – a single surviving cell would cause cancer recurrence in a previously cured patient. Learning to deal with these obstinate cells will aid in curing patients permanently.

To destroy cancer cells swiftly and entirely, treatments must be able to change just as the cancer cells do. But while a cure-all for cancer is yet undiscovered, progress is definitely being made.


Category: Features, Top Story

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