The Blooming Era of Cancer Research
The combat against cancer remains a major concern for medical research. For many years, research into the genetic causes of cancer seemed to have little impact on clinical efforts to control the condition. The diagnosis, characterization, surveillance, and (particularly) management of human malignancies appear to be improved by a molecular understanding of cancer as a result of developments over the previous ten years. A deeper comprehension of cancer biology, creative applications of new information in the clinic, as well as political, social, and cultural reforms are all necessary for realizing the medical promise of this new era in cancer research.
Perceptions of this scenario have obviously changed over the past decade. It is currently acknowledged that gaining an understanding of the genetic and biochemical pathways by which malignancy develops and behaves will improve our ability to identify, categorize, assess, and manage these conditions. The evolution of understanding about cancer has been particularly influenced by two significant sources in general and specific tumors emerging from various cell lineages:
1. The primary lesions causing neoplasia are mutations. The mutations affect proto-oncogenes, causing a dominant gain-of-function, and tumour suppressor genes, causing a loss of function; they are mostly somatic, although occasionally inherited. Novel tools for identifying cancers, predicting their behaviour, anticipating ways to detect them early, building new imaging tools, and creating therapeutic approaches are provided by mutations and secondary alterations in gene expression.
2. The biology of cancer. Understanding the signalling pathways that control the cell cycle, cell proliferation, programmed cell death (apoptosis), lifespan, activity, metabolism, and genetic stability has helped to link the biological activity of cancer cells to underlying mutations in an increasing number of cases. Moreover, it is now known that elements of a cancer cell's surroundings, in addition to the physiological properties of cancer cells themselves, are crucial for understanding cancer and thinking of new ways to combat it.
Apart from this, Tumor classification using DNA and RNA analysis is still a very speculative field that is primarily carried out experimentally in a very moderate number of laboratories and academic institutions. On the basis of evidence of modifications in the structure or synthesis of particular proteins in particular malignancies, novel, high-affinity ligands for imaging as well as reliable new biomarkers for tumour detection are still being developed.
Why then is there such a buzz about new cancer treatments? One justification is based on an unintended result of interfering with oncogenes that are activated. Studies on cancer cell lines and animals support the notion that cancer cells need on mutant oncogenes for viability, not simply proliferation, which is also known as "oncogene reliance" or "oncogene dependency."
Although it is still a poorly understood phenomena, the idea of oncogene reliance motivates efforts to eradicate cancer cells with novel treatments targeted specifically against the by-products of mutant oncogenes. Its central conundrum is a perplexing one: How does a cell that was initially contented without an oncogene prepare to perish if it were to lose it? The answers to this question may help develop strategies for taking advantage of the dependence of cancer cells on some of the most common oncogenes, such as members of the RAS and MYC gene families, for which there are currently no therapeutic drugs. This will require discovering more about the limitations of cells reliant on oncogenic proteins that do not act as enzymes.
Despite these inspiring concepts, enthusiasm for using new knowledge to treat cancer clinically can come across as naive, overly optimistic, simplistic about the medical and social effects of cancer, unaware of the history of integrating complex technical changes into general medical practise, and unaware of the numerous other ways cancer can be controlled. The mainstays of cancer treatment are expected to continue to be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, histopathology, and conventional imaging for a very long time. And despite the lack of molecular advancements, they are also growing more efficient thanks to technologies like image-guided and minimally invasive surgery, positron emission tomography, computed tomography scanning, dose-modulated radiation, and others.
Finally, the latest advancements in cancer research demand that oncology's culture evolve. These include improved working partnerships between oncologists in academia and those in community hospitals, as well as between oncologists and other medical professionals. New learning programmes that give grad students in the basic sciences the chance to comprehend the challenges posed by cancer as a human disease; funding mechanisms and academic advancement standards that encourage the kind of collaboration typically associated with industry; and assurances of access to the molecular data sets produced with public funding, to increase their usefulness for researchers, practitioners, patients, and their advocates.