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Medicine Science

New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the kill-all-the-cells!-oh-wait dept.
cranky_chemist sends this report from NPR: "Cancer simply may be here to stay. Researchers at Kiel University, the Catholic University of Croatia and other institutions discovered that hydra — tiny, coral-like polyps that emerged hundreds of millions of years ago — form tumors similar to those found in humans. Which suggests that our cells' ability to develop cancer is "an intrinsic property" that has evolved at least since then — way, way, way before we rallied our forces to try to tackle it, said Thomas Bosch, an evolutionary biologist at Kiel University who led the study, published in Nature Communications in June (abstract) To get ahead of cancer, he said, "you have to interfere with fundamental pathways. It's a web of interactions," he said. "It's very difficult to do." That's why cancer "will probably never be completely eradicated."
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New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

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  • by magarity (164372) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:19PM (#47723551)

    I'll be people who get cancer will be perfectly happy to settle for "easily curable/reversible" if it can't be prevented in the first place. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

    • How did a comment this off the mark get +5 insightful so fast?

      It's not a matter of what you "call" beating cancer. The problem is that important, beneficial parts of our biology depend on the parts that go all cancerous under certain circumstances.

      It's part of the "there isn't one cancer" premise. (According to this)Our cells have the programming on how to cancerous built in. And lots and lots of very different biological switches can activate it. And those switches can't all be turned off because they

      • The point that the grandparent is trying to make is that you don't need to prevent cancer, you need to prevent cancerous cells from having a serious adverse effect on the organism. There are a number of benign growths that have cancer-like properties that people can live with and that don't spread over the body. Being able to differentiate the benign versions from the malignant and kill off the malignant cells would not require eradicating the cancer mechanism, but would (from the perspective of humans ou
  • "Never" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:19PM (#47723553) Homepage Journal
    Like my 70's era assembly language book thought that 32 bit processors would "never' be widespread due to how expensive it would have to be to produce them?
    • Re:"Never" (Score:5, Funny)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:58PM (#47723885) Homepage Journal

      And who exactly is using 32 bit processors these days, hmmm?

    • by Atzanteol (99067)

      Perhaps more like "we'll never have flying cars."

      • And of course, we won't. Because flight is entirely different in so many ways from driving that things that do fly wouldn't be called cars.

        We have all sorts of flying transportation, traditional helicopters, airplanes, balloons, quadrotors, with all kinds of different properties, and functions. None of them are much like cars, all of them are more expensive. All of them require more skill to operate. But they exist, and you could get one today if you really wanted.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          This is what they mean by flying car:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
          Non of that other stuff counts.
          Are you clear on that now?

          And never is a really long time.

        • by Atzanteol (99067)

          I didn't say we can't have "machines that fly." But that we won't have a machine that performs the functions of a "machine that can fly" and a "machine that drives on roads and fits in my parking space at work."

          AKA a "flying car."

  • .... is the ability to transfer one person's mind into another body... then all you need to do is keep transferring your mind into a younger body as the one you currently have breaks down.

    Although that sounds vaguely like the premise of some sort of science fiction story that looks at inequalities between classes.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      Although that sounds vaguely like the premise of some sort of science fiction story

      @see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6... [wikipedia.org]

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:39PM (#47723701) Homepage

      And how do you transfer your mind, which is made up of an individual pattern of pathways of neurons and synapse unique to the individual? You can't transfer the brain because it too ages. The DNA overtime suffers replication transcription errors. You might the able to extend the telomeres or re-program the DNA using the CRISPR method...maybe.

      I think this is it. The only way to "extend your life" is via procreation. Whatever knowledge you transfer to your child[ren] will be your long lasting legacy left behind.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        Who knows? I did say it was probably the stuff of science FICTION....
      • by boristdog (133725)

        Ah, knowledge can only be passed to YOUR children. The hell with other people's children, right?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Brain transplant!

        I like how you assume no future knowledge of the brain and science should possible find a way to do this.

        I'll take sharing my knowledge with my kids AND living for ever, thanks.

        • Exactly. I was just talking about this scenario the other day. While portable brain cases may be a bit far fetched and hard to imagine, I don't see immobile support systems for brains totally unfeasible. Of course waaay more science is needed, but we do seem to be advancing at an exponential rate.

          Once it does become possible there are a bunch of strange milestones. Like, who were the first sucessful clinical trials? Would they become 'the elders' eventually? What about when there are more brains in
        • by dj245 (732906)

          Brain transplant!

          Would you be the same person if you were in the body of a woman? Consider the differences in hormones, the greatly decreased testosterone compared to a man's body would make a huge difference all by itself.

          Would you then be the same person if you were in a different body of a same-sex person? Their hormones are different too, in more subtle ways but still different. It is the Ship of Theseus [wikipedia.org] problem.

          • by Megol (3135005)

            No the ship of Theseus problem is about changing parts one by one until the original parts have all been replaced. You are talking about changing some parts while also changing specifications of those parts which is an interesting problem in its own but different.

            While not spiritual or religious I think one theoretically could replace a human brain stepwise with electronic parts so that in the end the complete brain is replaced while keeping the person alive in the end - the personality and experience, call

      • by Dagger2 (1177377)

        By scanning the pattern and constructing a new brain with the same patterns. Implementation details are left as an exercise for the reader.

        This seems like it'd be extremely hard but not necessarily impossible. The bigger issue is that you'd essentially be fork()ing your mind -- the original mind would still be stuck in the original body, so the whole procedure wouldn't help it any.

        • This is why I have a problem with teleportation. It means creating an exact copy while destroying the original in the process. So, is it really "you" at the other end?

          • by mythosaz (572040)

            Ah, yes, but what happens if I teleport my ship, the Theseus [wikipedia.org]?

          • That's your problem with teleportation?

            What if the original isn't destroyed, but converted to light (or some FTL substance, as long as we're talking sci-fi) and reconstituted at the endpoint?

          • by mark-t (151149)
            Not all types of teleportation necessarily involve creating a copy.... quantum teleportation, most notably.
        • What if they scan the original brain and recreate it in a software simulation? Kind of like a virtual brain server. What happens if you spin up a dozen versions of your brain? (Cue Slashdot Meme about a Beowolf Cluster of Brains.) Would Virtual You be able to communicate with the other Virtual Yous? Would we wind up in a society planned out by Virtual Brains of our best and brightest? Or in a society run by the Virtual Brains of our richest and most powerful? Would the rich get Dedicated Brain Servers

      • Whatever knowledge you transfer to your child[ren] will be your long lasting legacy left behind.

        Well, not if Jesus or Mohammed was correct.

      • Your first mistake is assuming the Mind == Brain. That is incorrect. The mind doesn't depend the physical.

        A poor analogy would be:

        * Brain = Hardware
        * Mind = Software

        Your second mistake is assuming that it is not possible to transfer your mind. My wife channels other consciousness for a short time. The point is, whatever consciousness is (or isn't), consciousness is NOT physical as Peter Russell correctly points out in his The Primacy of Consciousness [youtube.com]

        Your third mistake is assuming you consciousness dies

      • Since you put the quotes around "extend your life" when you mentioned procreation, you appear to acknowledge that it doesn't really extend your life at all. That's just comforting gibberish. When you consider that you share some genes with *every* human alive, what you're really talking about is, "extend your life by taking false comfort in the idea that some humans will exist after you die who have a genetic makeup slightly more like yours than others".

        Unless you actually meant "knowledge transfer" to y
        • Not saying you're wrong, but damn, that's a nihilistic way of putting it!

          With regards to faulting programming: That's the song and dance of humanity. Get over it. You won't have a sole arbiter of knowledge, because both government and other institution will always claim to be that. It's how wars get started and oppression / tyranny set root. All that you can do as a parent is teach your children as much correct knowledge that you know to be true. But most importantly, teach him/her of the methods by being s

          • ...With regards to faulting programming: That's the song and dance of humanity. Get over it. You won't have a sole arbiter of knowledge...

            You're not addressing my point. I have no problem with us doing the flawed best we can. All I was saying was that procreating is a poor substitute for actually living into the future.

            • All I was saying was that procreating is a poor substitute for actually living into the future.

              Until major breakthroughs happen in both biology and computer technology, we may be stuck. Further more, the notion of biology to silicon transcendence is predicated on understanding what exactly consciousness is; and is it transferable?

              Some have postulated that consciousness is nothing more than an illusion. Though I still hold that in the end, we all leave this world as we came into it from birth; kicking and sc

      • And how do you transfer your mind, which is made up of an individual pattern of pathways of neurons and synapse unique to the individual? You can't transfer the brain because it too ages. The DNA overtime suffers replication transcription errors. You might the able to extend the telomeres or re-program the DNA using the CRISPR method...maybe.

        I think this is it. The only way to "extend your life" is via procreation. Whatever knowledge you transfer to your child[ren] will be your long lasting legacy left behind.

        A sufficiently advanced emulation of your brain would be more "you" than your children are "you".

        As to maintaining DNA over an indefinite time. That's already done. That is the nature of binary fission (how cells reproduce). All cells are as old as the first parent cell billions of years ago.

        When one cell splits into two: there isn't a "parent" and a "child". They are both the same cell. You are the same cell that your mother grew from and her mother before her. Want an even clearer example? How old is an a

        • by Megol (3135005)

          And how do you transfer your mind, which is made up of an individual pattern of pathways of neurons and synapse unique to the individual? You can't transfer the brain because it too ages. The DNA overtime suffers replication transcription errors. You might the able to extend the telomeres or re-program the DNA using the CRISPR method...maybe.

          I think this is it. The only way to "extend your life" is via procreation. Whatever knowledge you transfer to your child[ren] will be your long lasting legacy left behind.

          A sufficiently advanced emulation of your brain would be more "you" than your children are "you".

          As to maintaining DNA over an indefinite time. That's already done. That is the nature of binary fission (how cells reproduce). All cells are as old as the first parent cell billions of years ago.

          When one cell splits into two: there isn't a "parent" and a "child". They are both the same cell. You are the same cell that your mother grew from and her mother before her. Want an even clearer example? How old is an amoeba?

          Two.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

      Yes, it is a bad movie, but it tries hard.

    • Assuming that mind transfers were easy to enough to be in our grasp, of course. After all, can you imagine how valuable it would be to an organism's offspring if the parent were able to simply transfer all its experience,into it? Not having already evolved it isn't really a convincing argument,but it's worth a thought. Then again, there is instinct which, while for more primitive and less flexible than Knowledge (as well as in most cases relying heavily on complimentary learned experience to function, cont
    • And what happens to the mind of the body you are transfering into?

      • by mark-t (151149)
        That would probably be the subject of said science fiction story. If I were writing it, I would say it is gone... completely overwritten by the mind that overwrote it. There could be all kinds of ethical issues we might have with this sort of thing today... but those kinds of issues often make some of the best stories, allowing us to safely examine through the lens of a work of fiction at just what kinds of atrocities the darker side of human nature might be capable of, and possibly giving us a greater re
  • Headlines (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:24PM (#47723585)

    This seems like an overly dramatized article based on one sentence. Obviously there's been progress in cancer treatments and some cures for specific cancers.

    FTA: One strategy might be to against these cells. Yervoy, a drug that does just that, eliminated melanoma in — and counting. An infusion of Yervoy and a similar drug, nivolumab, has kept some lung cancer patients disease-free for about six years so far. "Their cancer hasn't come back yet. It might never come back," Ben Creelan, an oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. "I think it's the most exciting thing in decades."

  • "new" research (Score:5, Informative)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:27PM (#47723611)

    New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

    No shit, really? Because all the knowledge of cancer-blocking genes (like p53) which trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) wasn't a giveaway that runaway growth might actually be an intrinsic property of life? The whole point of these genes is to keep cells in a multicelled organism from defeating the ability for a given multicelled organism to live.

    but I didn't read the study, so maybe this is saying something that isn't already obvious.

    • by Sowelu (713889)

      As you are apparently the only person in this comments page who actually knows the science here, please accept my invisible, non-existent mod points.

    • by Alopex (1973486)

      I agree that the title is misleading. The reason that this paper is in one of the highest-impact scientific journals is not because it suddenly dawned on scientists that cancer is pervasive and just a fact of how cells work, but because they found tumors in early (in evolutionary terms) species that had never been discovered before.

      Scientists have known since the dawn of knowing what cancer was that this was an intrinsic property of life. When the error-checking machinery is error-prone, things can get ou

    • The stakes are obviously higher when the subject is sentient(at least the subject tends to think so...); but even organisms that are barely 'multicellular', like slime molds, have some rather fascinating mechanisms surrounding the issue of maintaining organism-level cooperation between individual cells subject to their own selective pressures.

      With the slime molds some of the really tricky bits happen when the normally free-living cells congregate and form a stalk that is mostly (dead) structural cells wi
      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        ... a bunch of formerly independent cells deciding which 90% get to die in order to form the support structure and who gets to be the reproductive structure.

        I'm certainly no expert, but doesn't something like that happen during human gestation? Don't our 'tail' cells die or get resorbed, as well as the webbing between our fingers and toes?

  • by Dorianny (1847922) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:29PM (#47723637) Journal
    The mechanisms of evolution, like natural selection and genetic drift, work with the random variation generated by mutation. It would make sense that cells have have an intrinsic ability to mutate would have a higher chance of developing a beneficial mutation therefore would have a evolutionary advantage.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      I can see such in reproduction-related cells, but not regular body cells because those are not passed on.

      More likely cancer is simply the result of the trade-offs between efficiency versus duration. In a competitive world efficiency guarantees genetic success more than life duration. After all, the alpha male is in almost a winner-take-all role. To be the alpha male you have to have a high metabolism and an efficient metabolism (get big without having to find extra food).

      This means that entropy (errors in c

      • by Dorianny (1847922)

        I can see such in reproduction-related cells, but not regular body cells because those are not passed on.

        More likely cancer is simply the result of the trade-offs between efficiency versus duration. In a competitive world efficiency guarantees genetic success more than life duration. After all, the alpha male is in almost a winner-take-all role. To be the alpha male you have to have a high metabolism and an efficient metabolism (get big without having to find extra food).

        The research seems to suggest that the cells intrinsic ability to mutate developed early on in the evolution of life, certainly long before sexual reproduction.

        This means that entropy (errors in cell division) builds up faster. There are generally two solutions to entropy: slower metabolism or error correcting mechanisms. Being slower means you'll never be able to be the alpha male, and error-correcting means you are less efficient during your prime because such mechanisms consume resources. (Some bacteria have such.)

        Note how female mammals typically have lower metabolism and live longer. This is because they are not in the winner-take-all position of males.

        Not sure about all mammals but this is certainly the case in humans, however the reason why are not very clear. At least some of it can certainly be explained with higher rates of risky behavior, excessive drinking, smoking, bravado, etc. as well as a reluctance to get check ups, among males of the species.

    • In the specific case of humans(and other placental mammals, presumably), it probably doesn't help that "aggressively invade immunologically foreign tissue, stimulate growth of blood vessels to support voracious demand for oxygen and nutrients" is one of the qualifications that you must have to avoid dying before your mother even noticed you.

      That sort of capability is classic tumor; but you aren't going to hack it as an embryo unless you are capable of it.
  • by Solandri (704621)
    To form an organ, cells need to multiply, grow, and specialize, then stop multiplying at some point except as needed to maintain the organ.

    Cancer is what you get when they lose the "stop multiplying" instruction.
  • the potential for cancer may be inevitable but the science we have conducted so far suggests its manifestation is correlative to how we live. obesity, drinking, smoking, and physical fitness all play a role in determining our risk.
  • Disclosure: wife's paternal aunt and mother, and my grandfather and mother, all died of various cancers. IANA cancer expert but I've read a lot.
    I have always figured that cancer isn't about "runaway growth"; it's about the failure of whatever STOPS that childhood growth and keeps adults stable. Curing the body's ability to reproduce cells would be curing the ability to heal and replace and continue living. The best I expect to see is a way to put "safety brakes" in the system so that a person can continue
    • by geekoid (135745)

      " anything that lives, dies; it's just about timing and quality/functionality of life while you're living."
      You can't prove that until everything is dead; therefore I will live forever!

  • by clawsoon (748629) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:50PM (#47723807)

    It's too bad that this very interesting research - cancer in hydra! - is being overshadowed by sweeping statements about cancer. There are a number of species which experience little to no cancer, from naked mole rats to some whale species. There are a number of different ways that different species reduce or prevent cancer, from additional cell-death signalling via hyaluronan [nature.com] in naked mole rats to additional cell-death signalling via p53 pathways [nih.gov] in blind mole rats to replicative senescence [wiley.com] in many large mammals, to who-knows-what in eastern grey squirrels and elephants and whales.

    The cancer-fighting idea in each case is something that should be near and dear to systems administrators: Redundancy. The more cell-death pathways there are, the harder it is for a series of mutations to result in immortal cancer cells. Redundant Arrays of Immortality Suppression, if you will.

    This doesn't mean that we'll ever get rid of cancer in humans, mind you, because evolving a new cancer-prevention signalling pathway takes a couple of million years. But the fact that hydra get cancer doesn't have anything to do with whether we'll ever get rid of cancer in humans, either.

  • ... in this so-called 'new' research?

    Because, except for part about giving up hope based on one example in another species, medical science has known all of this for decades.

  • by volvox_voxel (2752469) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @03:53PM (#47723825)

    Just because cancer has been around for a very long time, should not make us defeatists.. I spent 5 years working on DNA sequencers and cancer cell sorting robots, and still consider biology to be hundreds of years behind other branches of science because we have not, until very recently had the tools to study the differences between cancer and normal cells at the DNA level. The Illumina machine can images two flow cells at once -- one for cancer, and one for normal cells. We can now study what happened to make the DNA replication fail and mutate, etc. Apparently it's now possible to do this for $1000.. The human genome project originally cost about 2 billion dollars.. The reduction in infrastructure and cost has been extraordinary.

    We can now better identify specific cancers to take out some of the guesswork. In the journal Nature a few years ago , doctors used a DNA sequencer to identify a misdiagnosed cancer (muscle cancer in his lung, producing large tumors) who had only weeks to live, and brought him back from the brink with the right treatment. We've spend the last 40 years developing specific cures, and it was only just guess work to decide what actual cancer a patient had.. This was circa 2007-8..

    One thing that really encouraged me a few years ago was a documentary from PBS called Cancer Warrior, that outlined the work of Judah Folkman and is work on angiogenic inhibitors.. Apparently tumors can trigger a persons body to grow veins to connect it to a blood supply , and that you can pick up unique chemical signatures of individual tumors in a patients urine..Strangely enough, large tumors send out chemicals that inhibit the growth of other tumors, and is why we often see many more tumors after removing one large tumor. We now have drugs that form angiogenic inhibitors ... Perhaps in the future we will understand how to create custom tumor growth inhibitor agents that have been tailored for a specific patient by analyzing the signatures in their urine.... An interesting application of synthesis and analytical chemistry.. I wonder what is the current state of research..

  • Look, cancer is another word for evolution. It's single cells evolving into deadly killing machines that lay waste to their parent cells.

    Unfortunately those parent cells are US!

    The sole reason why we age is to destroy cancers (aging is a direct result of the body's limitations on cellular reproduction, which is there to keep cells from becoming cancers).

    We can't cure old age, until we cure cancer, otherwise we would all get cancer and die before we made it past 50.,

    But once we cure cancer, then we can

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Look, cancer is another word for evolution. "
      No, it is not. You just let everyone know that you know nothing about cancer and evolution, so thanks for that.

      • by gurps_npc (621217)
        You could have tried to disagree with me without insulting me. But that would have you to try and show me how I was wrong. Lets try this again, using wikipedia.

        Evolution (From wikipedia): Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.

        Cancer (also from evolution): a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.

        Now use your brain. Abnormal = change from inherited charac

  • It's combinatorics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by presidenteloco (659168) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @04:55PM (#47724279)

    Human (and similar) bodies work by the continuing controlled boil of of n-billion chain-reactions among n-billion complex molecules. These reactions, though unbelievably complex, have been channelled into very narrow auto-catalytic reaction pathways by evolution. As well as the reactions that do happen in successful organism continuance, there are a vast combinatoric possible range of alternate, and ultimately counter-productive reaction chains that could take place with the same molecule combinations that are present. Luckily, almost all of these destructive alternative reaction chains are energetically infeasible, again, because evolution produces more and more precisely regulated catalyzed reaction chains, equivalent to fine-grained control of living structure formation and process, including metabolism, cell reproduction, and programmed cell death.

    However, the combinatoric possibilities for alternate reactions, and alternate metastable structure and process formations, are huge, due to both the number of redundant instances of each type of structure and each type of (chemical) process, and the complexity of the number of different interacting structures and (chemical) processes.

    Again luckily, most alternative structure and process that arises is self-lethal. Self-continuing reaction chains (in any given chemical/structural/thermodynamic context) are exceedingly rare, relative to the number of alternatives that might start out.

    More fortunately, the viable chains of structure and process have become so sophisticated due to evolution that they actively work to destroy many altered forms. (The immune system.)

    However, again, given the vast combinatoric opportunities for even just slightly alternative structure and process to begin as a slight error in a routine living structure and process, not every alternative is non-viable, and not every alternative can be overcome by the immune system.

    Some alternative auto-catalyzing structures/processes, starting as minor variants of normal structures/processes, can be viable in their own right, and form a simpler-than-their-host-organism replicating system within the host organism's body, and using its material and energy, and, it must be said, using many of the host body's still perfectly functional structures/structure types/ and processes (e.g. blood vessel recruitment by tumours.)

    In summary, viable life as any single type of organism is a matter of a self-reinforcing chain/cycle of viable structure formation and chemical process/reaction continuation within and with that structure. There are virtually unlimited kinds of minor variations in structure or process that could accidentally occur in such a complex physical/chemical/thermodynamic context.Most of those alternatives are self-lethal (not programmed chemically and structurally to continue to reproduce and grow their alternative form). Many other alternatives that might be successful at alternate-form growth and reproduction are killed off by a healthy immune system.
    But some forms get through.
    The biggest predictor of cancer formation is lifespan. As an organism ages, a) There have simply been more opportunities for structure/process accidental variation experiment within the body, and b) Probably the regulation of process by the body itself becomes weaker as subsystems reduce from their early-life capability levels, due no doubt to a whole range of entropic breakdown of the uniformity of structure and process.

    Organism bodies (and their vast self-supporting network of constraining structures and autocatalytic reactions) have a design-life (by evolution, not a designer), and that design life is "enough to reproduce, and care for the offspring if applicable to the species".

    A tough story to hear, but that's the story of life and cancer. It is not a hopeless story. Both immune function improvement and novel artificial interventions stand good chances of beating back these alternative lifeforms within us in particular cases. In general though, it is just part of our life process.

     

    • Neat post. Conceptually, single-celled organisms can't get "cancer" because, in a way, they are cancer. However, they no doubt can suffer mutations or other genetic changes (like from viruses) that make them survive and reproduce more or less well, all things considered for their current environment. Cancer has to do with a cell deciding not to play nicely with the rest in a body, and to strike out on its own, so to speak. Cancer in general is a bit like a crazy individual or small group in a society trying

  • "That's why cancer "will probably never be completely eradicated.""

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re... [sciencedaily.com]

  • The enzymes that copy DNA need a little bit of DNA past where they are "writing" to hang on to. As a result, the enzymes fall off before they reach the end of our linear DNA. Every single time one of your cells replicate, it loses a little DNA.

    Eventually, you're going to cut off something important. Like genes regulating cell division.

    • by jd (1658)

      That's easy to fix. If a cell has not just the existing error correction codes but also digital ones as well, then mutagenic substances (of which there are a lot) and telemere shortening can be fixed. Well, once we've figured out how to modify the DNA in-situ. Nanotech should have that sorted soonish.

      The existing error correction is neither very good nor very reliable. This is a good thing, because it allows evolution. You don't want good error correction between generations. You just want it in a single pe

  • Here, in the year Lemon Meringue, we decided to solve the problem once and for all.

    Instead of trying to kill cancer, we hijack its techniques. We start by having nanocomputers in the vaccuelles of each brain cell. These keep a continuous backup copy of the state of the brain up to death. Cancers disable the hard limit on cell duplication that cannot otherwise be avoided. By using the techniques of cell-devouring microphages, the cancer "consumes" the old cells and replaces them with new ones. They can't spr

  • Cancer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday August 22, 2014 @02:07AM (#47726739) Homepage

    My girlfriend is a PhD geneticist who specialises in cancer studies (leukaemia etc.) and is currently working in hospitals doing genetic test to confirm cancerous tumours and other genetic diseases.

    When we talk about it, I can't talk on her level, but the way she explains it, cancer is an inherent factor in living things. There's a reason for that. It's a natural replication mechanism that is based on parts of a cells DNA. DNA is basically damaged ALL DAY LONG in your body. UV does it. All sorts of things do it. And DNA has repair mechanisms not dissimilar to a error-correcting code that runs your RAID array, or your PAR files.

    So most of the time, when a cell is damaged, it "fixes itself". If it doesn't fix itself, then there are mechanisms in the body itself to detect and cull damaged cells that get that far (the immune system, basically). If those mechanisms fail against the damage, or the damage is of certain undetectable types, then the cell will replicate. But, crucially, the damage to the cell will mean it will never stop replicating. And all the replicated cells will share the same error. And basically then you end up growing a tumour.

    As such "cancer" is inherent in all living things with DNA. The question really is whether you live long enough to be statistically affected by the amount of damage it takes to get a cell that can't be fixed or eradicated by the body, or not. Babies can get cancer. It's pretty much down to chance.

    So, I'm not at all sure what we're being told here. It seems like someone is trying to claim that somehow cancer is some kind of "disease" that they've found in an older species so it must have been around for longer. Actually, from what I gather, it's ALWAYS been around. Pretty much since DNA existed, if not before. Because it's a misfiring cell that never gets the "stop" signal when it starts replicating (which happens millions of times a day throughout your body).

    It's a "flaw", if you like, in the DNA error correction mechanisms. It's not a disease as such. It's not something you "catch". It's not even something that "evolves". It's a mistake. An error. A bad sector or flipped bit on your cell's hard drive that corrupts the rest of the files on there and, when you then blindly execute those instructions, can lead to writing over your whole hard disk.

  • The was a strangely sensationalist article for NPR; one is left with a sense of hopelessness until the last paragraph or two about promising treatments. Not sure why they were so compelled to bury potential good news under a bushel of sorrow.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson

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