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Cancer 101 One persons view. Andrew Thorburn. Some things to bear in mind about Cancer. Second leading cause of death in the western world. Rapidly becoming more and more important cause of death in developing world.

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some things to bear in mind about cancer
Some things to bear in mind about Cancer
  • Second leading cause of death in the western world. Rapidly becoming more and more important cause of death in developing world.
  • Cancer rates are rising (primarily caused by increasing life span) although mortality is decreasing.
  • Compared with progress for other major killers-e.g. cardiovascular disease, progress against cancer has been dismal.
  • However, we have seen significant improvements in survival for some tumor types (e.g. testicular cancer, children’s leukemias, some breast cancers), little progress for others (e.g. glioblastoma, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer).
slide3

cell death < cell growth

Activate oncogenes

cell growth = cell death

cell growth > cell death

Inactivate tumor suppressors

Development of Cancer

most human cancers probably take decades to develop
Most Human Cancers probably take decades to develop

Suppose we were able to delay the whole process by just 2-3 fold?

B Vogelstein et al. Science 2013;339:1546-1558

how to deal with cancer
How to deal with Cancer...
  • Prevent as much cancer as possible (probably about half of cancer mortality can be prevented just with things we already know about).
  • Detect it early when its easier to deal with (but be clever enough to ignore cancers that we really shouldn’t be trying to treat).
  • Effectively treat the rest - ideally using personalized treatments that have limited toxicities and side effects.
  • After you’ve had cancer get the optimal support and care to ensure that CA survivorship is a good experience
slide6

Cancers often have lots of mutations.... and different ones add on new (often bad) behaviors to the tumor cells

B Vogelstein et al. Science 2013;339:1546-1558

Published by AAAS

slide7

Cancers often have lots of mutations....

But the important ones that drive tumor growth seem to be in about a dozen signaling pathways that control cell fate, cell survival & growth and maintenance of the genome. Some tumor types have more of these “drivers” than others

B Vogelstein et al. Science 2013;339:1546-1558

Published by AAAS

prevention strategies
Prevention Strategies
  • Change behaviors that we know lead to cancer: tobacco, obesity, diet, exercise, sun exposure, nasty chemicals etc.
  • Are there other important prevention strategies still out there waiting to be found or is it just a matter doing what we know we should do already?
detection strategies
Detection Strategies
  • New technologies may allow us to detect cancer at its earliest stages--can we do for other tumors what we can do for colon cancer where early detection can allow us to find and destroy tumors before they are bad?
  • Could there be a regular, reliable blood test to tell you if you’ve got tumor cells lurking in your body?
  • But how do we discriminate between the bad cancers and the ones we can safely ignore--will prostate CA where we may often actually over-treat people be the model?
treatment
Treatment
  • What do we do if prevention didn’t work and early detection didn’t catch it before it was a real tumor?
a short and incomplete history of cancer treatment
A short (and incomplete) history of cancer treatment...
  • ~1600 BCE--Egypt. Try to treat breast cancer by cauterization using “fire drill”--conclusion ”there is no treatment”
  • ~400 BCE--Greece. Hippocrates- no effective treatment, better to not try to treat cancer.
  • ~200 CE--Rome. Galen cancer caused by “unbalanced humors”--patient incurable, except in rare cases of breast cancer where the complete tumor was removed
  • mid 18th Century. John Hunter-”father of scientific surgery”--surgery can cure cancer if you remove all the tumor.
slide14
early 1900s. Use X-rays/radiation to kill cancer cells.
  • 1940s. Louis Goodman & Alfred Gilman: use nitrogen mustard to treat lymphoma. Sidney Farber--kill cancer cells with chemotherapy that blocks essential processes in a cell.
  • 1960s-1980s. Combine chemotherapy; significant progress with some tumors (e.g. pediatric ALL, testicular cancer).
  • late 1990s. Improved use of radiation and traditional chemotherapy. Targeted therapy-go after the defects in the tumor cells rather than just treating with toxic agents that kill all cells (normal and tumor).
  • 2000- Hundreds of new agents, most try to selectively target tumor cells and avoid killing normal cells but usually work for only some people.
new cancer drugs have lower success rates than drugs to treat other diseases
New cancer drugs have lower success rates than drugs to treat other diseases

Success defined as: % of drugs tested in humans that were approved for use by the FDA

95% of oncology drugs that are tested in people fail, this doesn’t count the ones that don’t even get into people!

Kamb et al.Nature Reviews Drug Discovery6, 115–120 (February 2007)

the good news

August 2007

(peak response)

Oct 2006

(baseline)

The good news:

Ross Camidge

the bad news it stopped working

Jan 2008

(regrowth

pelvic lesion)

August 2007

(peak response)

The bad news: it stopped working
but not in all the tumors

August 2007

(peak response

in pelvis)

Jan 2008

(continuing response

in other lesions)

...but not in all the tumors
too many potential drug combinations to make sense of
Too many potential drug combinations to make sense of?

Difficult to make sense of....But, a good problem for us to have!

survivorship
Survivorship
  • Will our treatments cause other problems? Including other cancers?
  • How do we ensure that after cancer people live healthy (healthier!) happy lives?
bottom line
Bottom Line
  • Cancer is a hard problem – you’re really trying to kill off bits of yourself and fighting natural selection
  • But it’s not hopeless. We know how to prevent at least half of it. It takes a long time for cancer to develop so there is usually plenty of time when one could step in and deal with the problem. We know cancer is a genetic problem but think there are a core set of relatively few pathways that are important– these are the targets that we are now going after. But we need to know who to treat and find ways to get around resistance.
  • The only way to make real progress (after at least 3,500 years!) is by working together and dealing with every aspect of the problem.