Might cancer be a natural part of a cell's landscape?by Philip Ball / February 17, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Scroll to the bottom for an analysis of the seven challenges Caner Research UK has set itself
Medical science is making huge advances in treating cancer. Figures released in February by Cancer Research UK showed that, since 2003, the chances of dying from the disease have fallen by 10 per cent. Increases in screening for the disease along with improved treatments mean that thousands of people in Britain have been saved from an early death.
But cancer is a disease like no other. It isn’t caused by a lone pathogen or genetic defect, so there is no single obvious point of attack in treating it. Unlike that other major killer, cardiovascular disease, it is not confined to any particular organ or tissue. In general, it has both genetic and environmental triggers.
These are some of the reasons why cancer is so hard to combat, and why the approaches are so diverse. But there is a growing sense that cancer is not so much a disease or even a malfunction—it is the dark side of being alive, a hazard lurking in the molecular mechanisms of our cells much as road networks harbour the potential for traffic jams. That’s one reason why it makes little sense to speak of a “war on cancer”: military metaphors, almost impossible to avoid in discussing the treatment of disease, seem particularly inappropriate when the target is not, say, a virus or…