Quiz 37: Curing Cancer
Cancer is a lethal disease, where the cells start dividing abnormally which destroy tissues of our body. During earlier days, cancer was perceived as an uncurable disease of pain resulting into ultimate death. It was considered that that once cancer is diagnosed the patient is left with brief time before death. The genetic mutation or cancer-causing mutation play a major role in development of cancer tumors. It comes with corollary. There is driver mutation along with old mutations in a tumor. These change the DNA structure that causes malignancy. There are also passenger mutations which though are present but does not cause harm and are not malignant. For curing the cancer, a driver mutation is needed, and the cancer also has to be addicted to it. There are basically two types of gene mutation: a) Acquired mutations - They are very common cause of cancer. They occur if there is any damage to genes in a person's life. It could be a cell which divide many times and form a tumor. For example, a breast cell. It does not pass from parents to progeny. b) Germline mutations - They are not that common. It can occur in sperm or egg cell. Since reproductive cells are involved in this type of mutation, it can pass on to the other generation. Though mutation is a common phenomenon and body has auto correction for mutation. Yet, if mutation occur several times in a person's cell it can take shape of cancer.
The genetic mutation or cancer-causing mutation play a major role in development of the cancer tumors. It comes with corollary. There are driver mutations along with old mutations in a tumor. These change the DNA structure that causes malignancy. There are also passenger mutations which though are present but does not cause any harm and are not malignant. For curing the cancer, a driver mutation is needed, and the cancer also has to be addicted to it. After recognising that different tumors are backed up by and are even addicted to specific type of mutation is paving way for cancer classification and treatment. Weinstock and his team have discovered drugs targeting, the lethal cancer driving product. The treatment of cancer will not be based on organ from where the cancer has originated, such as breast, lung or testis but it will focus on driver mutation. There are some 200 drugs targeting driver mutation are in pipeline. Different types of molecular drivers are EGFR, BRAF, MEK and HER2 The reason for drugs to target molecular driver and not the organ having tumor is that, the drug might cripple certain cancer tested on patient whose cancer was not driven by that mutations. The cancer has more than six to seven drivers. If the cancerous organ is hit by one drug, they switch drivers smoothly and go on dividing as insidiously as ever. In these cases, the oncologists work on combining several kinase - targeting drugs, which can cover all mechanism of escape. Therefore, in future cancer drugs would be targeted at the molecular driver of tumor rather than the organs where the tumor is found.