Monday, March 10, 2014

First Reader

Being an MCB major, the topic of cancer and cell reproduction is of particular interest to me. Reading of this evolutionary cause to cancer was refreshing because I was only aware of the cell mechanisms that cause it. When thinking of natural selection, competition on such a microscopic level does has never crossed my mind. The fact that cancer cells can mutate so rapidly and can vary so drastically among each other within the same tumor puts natural selection in their favor. This brought me to what I would have found to be a counter intuitive way to fight off cancer before reading this article, chemotherapy. A lot of us think of chemotherapy as one of the more effective treatments for cancer, but it can actually be deadly. Chemotherapy in high doses will select for those mutated cancer cells that are resistant to this treatment, and allow them to reproduce without competition from other cancer cells. In lower doses, one can maintain the size of the tumor by balancing an amount of chemo-resistant cancer cells and regular cancer cells. I feel as though it is important not only to understand the mechanics of cancer, but also why it has evolved this way in order to find a cure for cancer. If we can combine the findings from these two fields of study, I think the future is bright in finding a cure.

1 comment:

  1. I would definitely agree that using chemotherapy aggressively is often a mistake made when treating slow growing forms of cancer. Oftentimes, the side effects of chemotherapy alone can do more damage than the cancer is currently. But I also understand the viewpoint of the patient and his/her loved ones as wanting to destroy the cancerous cells as quickly as possible. Having a loved one with cancer is never easy. The loved ones often feel that waiting for the slow growing cancer to develop before treating it aggressively is similar to waiting for a time bomb to explode During my grandfather’s last round of cancer, the doctor’s actually used the “wait and see” method and later combined it with a less aggressive form of chemo. Instead of going through several weeks of chemo treatment, we waited several months to a year for the cancer to develop to a point that it posed any threat, then treated with a week or two of chemo, followed by several more weeks to months of waiting again. This seemed like a much better approach for this extremely slow growing form of cancer, because it allowed my grandfather to recover for several weeks/months before having to endure chemo again. I hope that this system, and others that use less aggressive treatments catch on soon, especially for the less aggressive forms of cancer. I feel that if it does, we could see some great outcomes for the patients and families.