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Medicine Biotech

Why a Cure For Cancer Is So Elusive 366

Posted by samzenpus
from the still-looking dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "George Johnson writes in the NYT that cancer is on the verge of overtaking heart disease as the No. 1 cause of death and although cancer mortality has actually been decreasing bit by bit in recent decades, the decline has been modest compared with other threats. The diseases that once killed earlier in life — bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis — were easier obstacles. For each there was a single infectious agent, a precise cause that could be confronted. But there are reasons to believe that cancer will remain much more resistant because it is not so much a disease as a phenomenon, the result of a basic evolutionary compromise. As a body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA — this vast genetic library — and bequeathing it to the daughter cells. They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur. Some are caused by carcinogens but most are random misprints. Mutations are the engine of evolution. Without them we never would have evolved. The trade-off is that every so often a certain combination will give an individual cell too much power. It begins to evolve independently of the rest of the body and like a new species thriving in an ecosystem, it grows into a cancerous tumor. 'Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else (PDF). That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology,' concludes Johnson. 'Maybe someday some of us will live to be 200. But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer.'"
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Why a Cure For Cancer Is So Elusive

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  • Mere flesh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by blackiner (2787381) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @06:47PM (#45873685)

    But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer.'"

    Pffft, I plan on being 100% robot by then. I'd like to see cancer bite my shiny metal ass.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @07:29PM (#45873975)

    You want room 12A, next door.

  • by BringsApples (3418089) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @08:04PM (#45874215)
    Why hugh pickens on that guy?
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @08:05PM (#45874219)

    The simple reason is that the people who fund the research feel there is more profit in treating cancer than there ever would be in curing it.

    That must be true since we know that there are no actual hard problems in medicine, science, math, or engineering. It's because of the oil companies that we don't have warp drive, antigravity, 500 mpg cars, and personal nuclear piles. The airlines, banks, and credit card companies are holding back time travel (no more late bills or missed flights). We have it on the authority of President Obama himself that surgeons do unnecessary surgery out of greed [wsj.com]. Fermat's last theorem could have been solved hundreds of years ago except for the abacus and adding machine lobby. Shoe manufacturers are holding back personal jet packs since shoes would rarely wear out if you fly everywhere. And teacher's unions prevent people from learning foreign languages while they sleep, with one weird trick.

    I have no idea where people get these ideas. Maybe food additives have something to do with it. Isn't hydrogenated-crank oil added to some foods? Or maybe it's just a problem due to chronic lack of sleep [universityherald.com]?

  • Re:Money (Score:3, Funny)

    by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:09PM (#45874645)

    And in the end, there are two main causes remaining: coronary diseases and cancer.

    Kindda like Wal-Mart and Amazon. Anyway, it's nice that a cure for KMart has already been approved, and a cure for Best Buy is currently in medical trials.

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