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Medicine Science

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

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 @04:19PM (#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.

  • "Never" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @04:19PM (#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?
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt.nerdflat@com> on Thursday August 21, 2014 @04:24PM (#47723581) Journal

    .... 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 DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @04:39PM (#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.

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

    by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @05:55PM (#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.


  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @06:02PM (#47724327)

    Not sure what you mean by a "deep evolutionary pathway".

    It seems to me that the pathways exist regardless of how we came to have our current physiology - evolved long ago or just recently. It's not obvious to me that there's a correlation between (a) how long living creatures have had such pathways and (b) how easy/hard it is to treat cancer in someone who has it.

  • Cancer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:07AM (#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.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson