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Biotech Medicine Science

Cancer Resembles Life 1 Billion Years Ago 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-so-safe-mode dept.
An anonymous reader writes "What is cancer? It's not an invader; it's spawned from our own bodies. And it bears striking resemblance to early multicellular life from 1 billion years ago. This has led astrobiologists and cosmologists Paul Davies and Charlie Lineweaver to suggest that cancer is driven by primitive genes that govern cellular cooperation (abstract), and which kick in when our more recently evolved genes that keep them in check break down. So, far from being rogue cells that mutate out of control, cancers are actually cells that revert to a more ancient level of programming, like booting in Safe Mode. The good news is this means cancers have only finite variation. Once we figure out the ancient genes, we'll know how it works. It's unlikely to evolve any new defense mechanisms, meaning curing cancer might be not quite as mammoth a task as commonly thought."
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Cancer Resembles Life 1 Billion Years Ago

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  • by ninejaguar (517729) on Friday February 11, 2011 @09:49AM (#35174006)

    Dichloroacetate (DCA) is a cheap, un-patentable, drug (essentially 1vinegar molecule+2chlorine atoms) currently used to treat a rare enzyme disorder in children, but researchers have found it useful in allowing cancer cells to learn how to kill themselves with reasonably acceptable temporary side effects. See "DCA and How It Works" below.

    There is almost no funding for this drug study due to it being un-patentable despite quite encouraging results, and reasonably acceptable and reversible side-effects.

    Recent human trial reported here:
    http://www.medindia.net/news/Dichloroacetate-Effective-Against-Aggressive-Brain-Cancer-68867-1.htm [medindia.net]

    Initial news from a couple of years ago...

    http://www.dca.med.ualberta.ca/Home/index.cfm [ualberta.ca]
    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/mg19325874.700-cheap-safe-drug-kills-most-cancers.html?DCMP=ILC-Top5&nsref=mg19325874.700 [newscientist.com]

    Here's an excerpt...
    "DCA and How It Works
    Dichloroacetic acid versus Sodium Dichloroacetate

    Dichloroacetic acid is a small molecule, basically acetic acid with 2 chlorines. The molecular formula is Cl2CHCOOH.

    Dichloroacetate is the sodium salt of dichloroacetic acid. Replace a hydrogen with sodium and you get Cl2CHCOONa

    If you view the video from CTV you will see a jar of dichloroacetic acid prominently displayed. http://www.depmed.ualberta.ca/dca/vid1.htm [ualberta.ca] is well worth watching. But they used a “cheap ...powder”. Dichloroacetic acid only comes in liquid. The powder is the sodium salt of dichloroacetic acid. It is sodium dichloroacetate. The researchers did not use the acid.

    For those of you searching for DCA, do not buy the acid. I posted info on the FAQ about it. The acid is not the same thing as the acetate. The acid is dangerously corrosive.

    How does DCA work, briefly?

    The Michelakis team reports that DCA turns on the mitochondria of cancer cells, allowing them to commit cellular suicide, or apoptosis.

    Cancer cells shut down the mitochondria, which is the part of the cell that is involved in metabolism and, incidentally, initiates the cell suicide.

    A non-cancerous cell will initiate apoptosis when it detects damage within itself that it cannot repair. But a cancer cell resists the suicide process. That is why chemotherapy and radiation treatments do not work very well and actually result in terrible side effects the healthy cells actually die much easier.

    Michelakis and his team discovered that they could re-activate the mitochondria of cancer cells. Not only that, the DCA is very effective in doing it: To quote from the Michelakis paper: “The decrease in [Ca2+]i occurs within 5 min and is sustained after 48 hr of DCA exposure.” The mitochondria are so sensitive to DCA that just 5 minutes of exposure reactivates them for 48 hours.

    The metabolic approach to cancer is supported by other research. Inhibition of Glycolysis in Cancer Cells: A Novel Strategy to Overcome Drug Resistance Associated with Mitochondrial Respiratory Defect and Hypoxia is a paper by a John Hopkins research team supporting this approach.

    http://www.thedcasite.com/dcaforum/DCForumID1/79.html [thedcasite.com] is a post on our chat room by Willis. giving a prediction as to which cancers DCA might not control, and it is being supported by the reports we are receiving."

    More on the left side of this web page:
    http://www.thedcasite.com/dca_how_it_works.html [thedcasite.com]

    = 9J =

  • by toppavak (943659) on Friday February 11, 2011 @09:57AM (#35174104)

    The good news is this means cancers have only finite variation. Once we figure out the ancient genes, we'll know how it works. It's unlikely to evolve any new defense mechanisms, meaning curing cancer might be not quite as mammoth a task as commonly thought.

    We've already figured out how most cancer works. At a gross, generalized level you have oncogenes (genes responsible for driving growth) and tumor suppressor genes (genes responsible for regulating growth) when interrelated genes of both varieties break in a cell, it becomes a cancer. A detailed molecular understanding of how some cancers work have led to effective treatments (see: Imatinib [wikipedia.org], Tamoxifen [wikipedia.org] and Raloxifene [wikipedia.org]) but that's hardly been successfully translated to other cancers where the broken parts aren't as easily modulated. In fact, Raloxifene was developed specifically because Tamoxifen which inhibits an oncogene in breast tissue activated the same oncogene in uterine tissue. What 10 years of the human genome have taught us is that not all diseases are direct or simple breaks in genetic code and that not all diseases with known, simple breaks in the genetic code are as easily treatable as we might like.

  • by AC-x (735297) on Friday February 11, 2011 @10:01AM (#35174178)

    It's a nice theory, but cancers aren't completely self sufficient. They need to form blood vessels to grow any larger than a pin head and early sponge-like organisms certainly didn't have those.

    http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/grow/how-a-cancer-gets-its-blood-supply [cancerhelp.org.uk]

  • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Friday February 11, 2011 @10:18AM (#35174440)

    Also chemo and radiation work extremely well for certain types of cancer, and work *precisely* because they affect cancerous cells far more readily then ordinary body cells (specifically: they induce damage in cells engaged in replication in the process of duplicating their DNA - cancer is doing this all the time, whereas most of your body is not replicating at any given time. It's why your hair falls out - the cells are engaged in aggressive replication constantly, and so are most affected).

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