Making Progress Against Cancer

The NYT has a great story in two parts (here and here) that provides a tantalizing glimpse into the future of cancer treatment.  Scientists and doctors are designing drugs that target specific genes in order to directly alter cancerous cells, as opposed to more traditional approaches like chemotherapy and radiation treatment which are essentially brute-force attacks that damage the patient as much as the cancer.

Targeted therapy for cancer is not brand new, but it’s nascent compared to the more traditional therapies.  It is a long and slow process to determine, develop, test, and finally administer the specific drug needed for a specific cancer.  In fact it’s a process that takes years, designed for patients who often only have months to live.  The NYT articles on this process are exciting but also frustrating to read; but results like this, showing dramatic tumor reduction in just 15 days, are simply amazing.

FuturePundit has more good news on the cancer front:

Death Rate Dropping From Cancer: Some reports have cited limited improvement in death rates as evidence that the "war on cancer", which was initiated in 1971, has failed.  Many of these analyses fail to account for the dominant and dramatic increase in cancer death rates due to tobacco-related cancers in the latter part of the 20th century. [...] For all cancers combined, death rates (per 100,000) in men increased from 249.3 in 1970 to 279.8 in 1990, and then decreased to 221.1 in 2006, yielding a relative decline of 21% from 1990 (peak year) and a drop of 11% since 1970 (baseline year).  Similarly, the death rate from all-cancers combined in women increased from 163.0 in 1970 to 175.3 in 1991, and then decreased to 153.7 in 2006, a relative decline of 12% and 6% from the 1991 (peak year) and 1970 rates, respectively.

It’s slow progress, but it’s progress.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies


01. Mar 14, 2010 at 04:40pm by John:

Cancer is a stunningly difficult disease to battle, and the medical issues are only part of the problem, as the NYT articles describe.

I was surprised to read about a guy from Erie, PA that was trying for a targeted cancer approach, but from a different perspective. He thought cancer cells could attract a metal, and then have a radio wave zap them.

And funny enough, Kanzius used the same radio wave transmitter to get a flame from salt water.

It seemed like a neat trick, and you gotta wonder how much energy it uses to create heat and how much energy could come from that.

Here’s a link about Kanzius.

Here is another to a  Kanzius on YouTube clip of a news report which talks about the cancer as well as a possible energy use:

It really is pretty interesting, and Mr Kanzius was not a medical doctor or chemical scientist.

He passed away about a year ago, although his ideas and company survive, as far as I know.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

02. Mar 17, 2010 at 01:25pm by Anthony:

More from Ars Technica:

A new analysis of death rates, performed by staff at the American Cancer Society, indicates that cancer death rates peaked around 1990, and have been declining broadly since.  As a result, they’re now below where they started in 1970. [...]

The biggest factor in the change, according to the authors, is prevention: people are smoking less, and we should see continued improvements in this regard due to the decreased rates of smoking in adolescents. [...]

Finally, there’s some indication that the rise in a few cancers may be tied to increased obesity, however, so there’s no guarantee of continued success.

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