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New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the kill-all-the-cells!-oh-wait dept.

Medicine 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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"Not eradicated" isn't needed (5, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about 5 months ago | (#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.

Re: "Not eradicated" isn't needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723801)

You don't get it. Chances are that cancer (at least in some of its forms) is simply the side effect of being alive and (biological) death is simply a cost-effective evolutionary response to it. If that is the case, the mechanism most likely emerged VERY early in the evolutionary process and that means that not only is an integral part of us, but it mat be active at the sub-cellular level, meaning that each individual cell parts would potentially have their own distinct cancer triggers.

If that scenario is confirmed, is NOT going to be easily curable or reversible and most likely CAN'T be prevented. Think of it as an intrinsic "feature" of life instead of a disease.

Re: "Not eradicated" isn't needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723867)

i'd settle for just more effective and less invasive treatments that can fight specific cancer outbreaks or what have you

Re: "Not eradicated" isn't needed (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47723883)

Multicellular organisms do have a variety of lethal failsafes that are supposed to stand in the way of cancer. Unfortunately some fraction of potentially cancerous cells are sufficiently defective that apoptosis is interrupted and they can proliferate.

Re: "Not eradicated" isn't needed (4, Informative)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 5 months ago | (#47724093)

Right, but that's miles away from saying "there is never going to be an effective treatment." If anything, having a set of well-defined and known pathways should make it EASIER to fight cancer than if cancer were just the result of random mutations that could arise anywhere on the genome at any time.

  The article never says that cancer is a 'side effect' of being alive. Instead it says that there are certain deep evolutionary pathways that, when triggered at the inappropriate time, cause cancer. Thus we might never be able to 'cure' ourselves of it (at least the same way we can cure ourselves of infectious disease). But that doesn't mean cancer would be impossible to treat or. It means the opposite: if all cancer cells go through similar mechanisms, fighting cancer would simply be a matter of weeding out those cells that show the characteristic, shared, telltale cancer signs and killing them early on (Of course we don't have the technology yet to do this but research like this offers a pathway towards building such tech).

Re: "Not eradicated" isn't needed (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 months ago | (#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.

Re:"Not eradicated" isn't needed (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47723849)

How did a comment this off the mark get +5 insightful so fast?

It's not a matter of what you "call" beating cancer. The problem is that important, beneficial parts of our biology depend on the parts that go all cancerous under certain circumstances.

It's part of the "there isn't one cancer" premise. (According to this)Our cells have the programming on how to cancerous built in. And lots and lots of very different biological switches can activate it. And those switches can't all be turned off because they do other important things too.

Re:"Not eradicated" isn't needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724355)

It wasn't built in. It got infected by malware that re purposed some bio-switches to do multiple things.

"Never" (3, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | about 5 months ago | (#47723553)

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?

Re:"Never" (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47723885)

And who exactly is using 32 bit processors these days, hmmm?

Re:"Never" (1)

powerlord (28156) | about 5 months ago | (#47723905)

No one who can afford Two Bits [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Never" (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | about 5 months ago | (#47723889)

Perhaps more like "we'll never have flying cars."

Re:"Never" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47723933)

And of course, we won't. Because flight is entirely different in so many ways from driving that things that do fly wouldn't be called cars.

We have all sorts of flying transportation, traditional helicopters, airplanes, balloons, quadrotors, with all kinds of different properties, and functions. None of them are much like cars, all of them are more expensive. All of them require more skill to operate. But they exist, and you could get one today if you really wanted.

Re:"Never" (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#47724115)

This is what they mean by flying car:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
Non of that other stuff counts.
Are you clear on that now?

And never is a really long time.

Re:"Never" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47724183)

So, in the shape of a car? That's the only requirement?

They exist and you can't have one.

Re:"Never" (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | about 5 months ago | (#47724307)

I didn't say we can't have "machines that fly." But that we won't have a machine that performs the functions of a "machine that can fly" and a "machine that drives on roads and fits in my parking space at work."

AKA a "flying car."

Winning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724005)

Our study also makes it unlikely that the ÃWar on CancerÃ(TM) proclaimed in the 1970s can ever be won. However, knowing your enemy from it origins is the best way to fight it, and win many battlesÃ, says Bosch.

The research implies that cessation of cancer would cause the cessation of evolution and possibly other functions that we consider part of a natural life.
Humans could win the 'War on Cancer' if we developed a technology to upload our being into the cloud and then interact with the world via robotic avatars. I am not sure if that would still be considered human, though.

From the Alpha Centauri game [wikipedia.org] :

I think, and my thoughts cross the barrier into the synapses of the machine, just as the good doctor intended. But what I cannot shake, and what hints at things to come, is that thoughts cross back. In my dreams, the sensibility of the machine invades the periphery of my consciousness: dark, rigid, cold, alien. Evolution is at work here, but just what is evolving remains to be seen.
-- Commissioner Pravin Lal, "Man and Machine"

Winning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724249)

Your comment made me remember of Blame! [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Winning... (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 5 months ago | (#47724257)

There was a seminar by one of the scientists who was visiting the UW about evolutionary biology and the implications on viral load and parasites, which pointed out that, even as we reduce specific infestations, other infestations end up replacing them, if we don't alter the polluted water and food sources that created them in the first place.

So I'd say that it is a moving target. Even when we come up with malarial or TB drugs, we still fail to alter the underlying living conditions which create the risk factors in the first place.

So what they need, then... (1, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#47723581)

.... 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.

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 5 months ago | (#47723667)

Although that sounds vaguely like the premise of some sort of science fiction story

@see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6... [wikipedia.org]

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#47723767)

Other than the fact that your clone is the same age as you are.... and would have all of the same physical health problems, sure.

Re:So what they need, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724131)

That's not how cloning works in the real world? A clone would be a newborn, which would have very different issues...

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#47724291)

Obviously... but the parent that I responded to was talking about cloning as it's portrayed in the movie "6th Day"

Re:So what they need, then... (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#47723701)

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.

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#47723779)

Who knows? I did say it was probably the stuff of science FICTION....

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

boristdog (133725) | about 5 months ago | (#47723931)

Ah, knowledge can only be passed to YOUR children. The hell with other people's children, right?

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#47724139)

Brain transplant!

I like how you assume no future knowledge of the brain and science should possible find a way to do this.

I'll take sharing my knowledge with my kids AND living for ever, thanks.

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | about 5 months ago | (#47724485)

Exactly. I was just talking about this scenario the other day. While portable brain cases may be a bit far fetched and hard to imagine, I don't see immobile support systems for brains totally unfeasible. Of course waaay more science is needed, but we do seem to be advancing at an exponential rate.

Once it does become possible there are a bunch of strange milestones. Like, who were the first sucessful clinical trials? Would they become 'the elders' eventually? What about when there are more brains in buildings than people alive? Can brains own property? Would they have human agents in the 'real world' to do their bidding? What would it mean for prison sentences? How good would they be at first person shooters? ;-)

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

Dagger2 (1177377) | about 5 months ago | (#47724241)

By scanning the pattern and constructing a new brain with the same patterns. Implementation details are left as an exercise for the reader.

This seems like it'd be extremely hard but not necessarily impossible. The bigger issue is that you'd essentially be fork()ing your mind -- the original mind would still be stuck in the original body, so the whole procedure wouldn't help it any.

Re: So what they need, then... (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#47724391)

This is why I have a problem with teleportation. It means creating an exact copy while destroying the original in the process. So, is it really "you" at the other end?

Re: So what they need, then... (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 5 months ago | (#47724431)

Ah, yes, but what happens if I teleport my ship, the Theseus [wikipedia.org] ?

Re: So what they need, then... (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | about 5 months ago | (#47724533)

That's your problem with teleportation?

What if the original isn't destroyed, but converted to light (or some FTL substance, as long as we're talking sci-fi) and reconstituted at the endpoint?

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 months ago | (#47724339)

Whatever knowledge you transfer to your child[ren] will be your long lasting legacy left behind.

Well, not if Jesus or Mohammed was correct.

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 5 months ago | (#47724513)

Your first mistake is assuming the Mind == Brain. That is incorrect. The mind doesn't depend the physical.

A poor analogy would be:

* Brain = Hardware
* Mind = Software

Your second mistake is assuming that it is not possible to transfer your mind. My wife channels other consciousness for a short time. The point is, whatever consciousness is (or isn't), consciousness is NOT physical as Peter Russell correctly points out in his The Primacy of Consciousness [youtube.com]

Your third mistake is assuming you consciousness dies when the body dies. This is also incomplete. Your mind is not confined, nor defined by, the limits of space or time.

If you have ever had an OBE you would understand these fundamentals about the mind.

Re:So what they need, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723783)

This is one of the themes in Greg Egan's The Caress, collected in Axiomatic.

Re: So what they need, then... (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 5 months ago | (#47723821)

Assuming that mind transfers were easy to enough to be in our grasp, of course. After all, can you imagine how valuable it would be to an organism's offspring if the parent were able to simply transfer all its experience,into it? Not having already evolved it isn't really a convincing argument,but it's worth a thought. Then again, there is instinct which, while for more primitive and less flexible than Knowledge (as well as in most cases relying heavily on complimentary learned experience to function, contrary to popular belief), does have similar aspects. Perhaps its actually less helpful (in the long run) to do a total transfer than it is to have a mix of "relearning" and certain forms of passed knowledge like an instinct. This reminds me of a rambling bit of philosophy I recently read in a Sci-fi novel. In discussing why apparent aliens had briefly stopped on Earth before continuing on without ever making contact with anyone, the idea was considered that perhaps what we consider intelligence is infact a primitive evolution of an instinct; inefficient, prone to error but still successful. Perhaps the alien's had a more refined instinct and no longer had need of the excess of culture and irrelevant communications that ours seemingly needs. That they had no need or even ability to communicate socially and contact us.

Re: So what they need, then... (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 5 months ago | (#47723845)

I had all these lovely blank lines delineating my paragraphs, l wonder what happened to them...

Re: So what they need, then... (1)

neoritter (3021561) | about 5 months ago | (#47724259)

You need to throw in html tags, like a br tag

Re: So what they need, then... (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 5 months ago | (#47724319)


It really has been a long time since I've posted to Slashdot! Thanks.

Re:So what they need, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724033)

Preserve your Software at any cost. The rest is meat.

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 5 months ago | (#47724045)

And what happens to the mind of the body you are transfering into?

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#47724107)

That would probably be the subject of said science fiction story. If I were writing it, I would say it is gone... completely overwritten by the mind that overwrote it. There could be all kinds of ethical issues we might have with this sort of thing today... but those kinds of issues often make some of the best stories, allowing us to safely examine through the lens of a work of fiction at just what kinds of atrocities the darker side of human nature might be capable of, and possibly giving us a greater respect for life, today, than we otherwise might have had.

Re:So what they need, then... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47724525)

Since society wouldn't allow it to happen to humans, they'd transplant human minds into pigs, goats, etc.

"I'm hungry. Since there's nothin' in the fridge, I'm goin' out back to graze."

Headlines (4, Interesting)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 5 months ago | (#47723585)

This seems like an overly dramatized article based on one sentence. Obviously there's been progress in cancer treatments and some cures for specific cancers.

FTA: One strategy might be to against these cells. Yervoy, a drug that does just that, eliminated melanoma in — and counting. An infusion of Yervoy and a similar drug, nivolumab, has kept some lung cancer patients disease-free for about six years so far. "Their cancer hasn't come back yet. It might never come back," Ben Creelan, an oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. "I think it's the most exciting thing in decades."

Hydra... specifically? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723599)

The entire premise of cancer being impossible to eradicate is based on our supposed descent from the hydra ("deep evolutionary roots"). Leaving aside multiple other ways the assertion is dubious in a reasoning-by-analogy level, is it even established there is such a line of descent?

It seems to me as a non-specialist that descent from the naked mole rat, which does not get cancer, would be a lot more directly supportable, since we're at least both mammals--which would lead to entirely the reverse conclusion from TFA.

Very light on useful evidence and sound inference, it seems to me.

Re: Hydra... specifically? (1)

staalmannen (1705340) | about 5 months ago | (#47723697)

That is not how evolution works. We do not decend from any currently living species, we just share common ancestors and if you go far enough back in time we are related to everything living on Earth. Studies of distant relative animals ("basal metazoans") and finding similarities to us indicate that our last common ancestor had those features.

Re:Hydra... specifically? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#47724153)

It seems to me as a non-specialist that descent from the naked mole rat,

you did not. Perhaps the lack of understanding evolution is why it's puzzling to you?

We already know how to prevent cancer (1)

KamikazeSquid (3611985) | about 5 months ago | (#47723601)

Cancer is a terrible disease and a cure would be a very amazing thing to have. Certainly, if there is any chance of curing it, we should do so.

The thing is, though, we already know how you can greatly reduce your risk factors for developing cancer, and we don't talk about that often enough. We speak so often of "curing" cancer when we should be focusing more energy on preventing it from happening in the first place.

Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk [mayoclinic.org]

Re: We already know how to prevent cancer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723895)

To be fair, "7 ways to..." is indistinguishable from "top ten thing that..." as they are all poorly researched articles not meant to inform but to keep you clicking links. Click bait. Or, y'know...bullshit.

Why not just skip to the number one way to avoid getting cancer? death. notonly is cancer intrinsic as this article is suggesting, but everything that you do or don't do is known to cause it. Everything required to be alive, from eating to breathing, to having sex or just moving around or simply existing in an environment causes cancer. You can really only reduce the probability against long odds. The only truly 100% method to prevent getting cancer is to die before you get it.

And that doesn't really solve much anyway because most of the problem is that humans a few centuries ago didn't live long enough to display cancer therefore it never got weeded out of the genome. So your kids will get cancer too.

Oh well. Seize the day or YOLO, and remember that not a damn thing you do is going to prevent the inevitable.

I have said the same about bugs from original code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723607)

... "it is an intrinsic feature."

"new" research (5, Informative)

gcnaddict (841664) | about 5 months ago | (#47723611)

New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

No shit, really? Because all the knowledge of cancer-blocking genes (like p53) which trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) wasn't a giveaway that runaway growth might actually be an intrinsic property of life? The whole point of these genes is to keep cells in a multicelled organism from defeating the ability for a given multicelled organism to live.

but I didn't read the study, so maybe this is saying something that isn't already obvious.

Re:"new" research (1)

Sowelu (713889) | about 5 months ago | (#47723731)

As you are apparently the only person in this comments page who actually knows the science here, please accept my invisible, non-existent mod points.

Re:"new" research (2)

Alopex (1973486) | about 5 months ago | (#47723887)

I agree that the title is misleading. The reason that this paper is in one of the highest-impact scientific journals is not because it suddenly dawned on scientists that cancer is pervasive and just a fact of how cells work, but because they found tumors in early (in evolutionary terms) species that had never been discovered before.

Scientists have known since the dawn of knowing what cancer was that this was an intrinsic property of life. When the error-checking machinery is error-prone, things can get out of control.

Re:"new" research (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47723951)

The stakes are obviously higher when the subject is sentient(at least the subject tends to think so...); but even organisms that are barely 'multicellular', like slime molds, have some rather fascinating mechanisms surrounding the issue of maintaining organism-level cooperation between individual cells subject to their own selective pressures.

With the slime molds some of the really tricky bits happen when the normally free-living cells congregate and form a stalk that is mostly (dead) structural cells with some spore forming bodies at the tip. This behavior is apparently adaptive at a colony level; but it involves a bunch of formerly independent cells deciding which 90% get to die in order to form the support structure and who gets to be the reproductive structure. All without access to general purpose cognition, game theory, or any similarly handy tools.

Re:"new" research (1)

rjmnz (165487) | about 5 months ago | (#47724215)

Efficient cooperation is very very hard.
Economists say it is impossible. Multicellular life requires it and took 3 billion years to find the trick.
The genes that are identified as cancer causing (P53, rb, P16, etc) have vital roles to play in ensuring cellular cooperation.
It is reasonable to view cancer cells as cells that are losing the skills of cooperation.
Given that our DNA is not closely guarded in our somatic cells (we wouldn't have an immune system if it was) then there will be variation occurring as we grow and as our cells turn over. With selection pressure at the cellular level (abundance of nutrients, oxygen poor intra-cellular environment etc) then this variation makes cancer very likely.

My personal view as a Pathologist.

Likewise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723617)

Also on the list of medical conditions that will never be eradicated:
Broken bones
Bacteria (in the general case, specific ones may be)
Viruses (see bacteria)

Makes sense I guess. (2)

Dorianny (1847922) | about 5 months ago | (#47723637)

The mechanisms of evolution, like natural selection and genetic drift, work with the random variation generated by mutation. It would make sense that cells have have an intrinsic ability to mutate would have a higher chance of developing a beneficial mutation therefore would have a evolutionary advantage.

Re:Makes sense I guess. (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47723861)

I can see such in reproduction-related cells, but not regular body cells because those are not passed on.

More likely cancer is simply the result of the trade-offs between efficiency versus duration. In a competitive world efficiency guarantees genetic success more than life duration. After all, the alpha male is in almost a winner-take-all role. To be the alpha male you have to have a high metabolism and an efficient metabolism (get big without having to find extra food).

This means that entropy (errors in cell division) builds up faster. There are generally two solutions to entropy: slower metabolism or error correcting mechanisms. Being slower means you'll never be able to be the alpha male, and error-correcting means you are less efficient during your prime because such mechanisms consume resources. (Some bacteria have such.)

Note how female mammals typically have lower metabolism and live longer. This is because they are not in the winner-take-all position of males.

Re:Makes sense I guess. (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about 5 months ago | (#47724051)

I think that's just to do with the fact that in the past men worked themselves into an early grave and had to retire later. I think I read somewhere recently that the difference between male and female life expectancy, in the West at least, is slowly converging to approximately the same value.

Re:Makes sense I guess. (1)

Dorianny (1847922) | about 5 months ago | (#47724057)

I can see such in reproduction-related cells, but not regular body cells because those are not passed on.

More likely cancer is simply the result of the trade-offs between efficiency versus duration. In a competitive world efficiency guarantees genetic success more than life duration. After all, the alpha male is in almost a winner-take-all role. To be the alpha male you have to have a high metabolism and an efficient metabolism (get big without having to find extra food).

The research seems to suggest that the cells intrinsic ability to mutate developed early on in the evolution of life, certainly long before sexual reproduction.

This means that entropy (errors in cell division) builds up faster. There are generally two solutions to entropy: slower metabolism or error correcting mechanisms. Being slower means you'll never be able to be the alpha male, and error-correcting means you are less efficient during your prime because such mechanisms consume resources. (Some bacteria have such.)

Note how female mammals typically have lower metabolism and live longer. This is because they are not in the winner-take-all position of males.

Not sure about all mammals but this is certainly the case in humans, however the reason why are not very clear. At least some of it can certainly be explained with higher rates of risky behavior, excessive drinking, smoking, bravado, etc. as well as a reluctance to get check ups, among males of the species.

Re:Makes sense I guess. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47723971)

In the specific case of humans(and other placental mammals, presumably), it probably doesn't help that "aggressively invade immunologically foreign tissue, stimulate growth of blood vessels to support voracious demand for oxygen and nutrients" is one of the qualifications that you must have to avoid dying before your mother even noticed you.

That sort of capability is classic tumor; but you aren't going to hack it as an embryo unless you are capable of it.

Duh? (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 5 months ago | (#47723659)

To form an organ, cells need to multiply, grow, and specialize, then stop multiplying at some point except as needed to maintain the organ.

Cancer is what you get when they lose the "stop multiplying" instruction.

but we have identified risk factors for it. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 5 months ago | (#47723675)

the potential for cancer may be inevitable but the science we have conducted so far suggests its manifestation is correlative to how we live. obesity, drinking, smoking, and physical fitness all play a role in determining our risk.

Re: but we have identified risk factors for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723903)

Yes, but we still don't know why people get cancer who don't exhibit any risk factors. So that only gets us so far.

Hail Hydra! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723679)

...Catholic University of Croatia and other institutions discovered that hydra...

Out of the shadows and into the light.

All you have to do is trigger apotosis (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 5 months ago | (#47723707)

To trigger that, you only need to raise the internal temp of cancer cells by a couple of degrees C, which would literally kill 98 percent of cancer cells and less than 1 percent of normal cells.

One of the researchers at the Wellcom Trust (sp?) figured that out, we had a Biochem seminar on it a few years back.

Re:All you have to do is trigger apotosis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723925)

So give the patient a fever?

Re:All you have to do is trigger apotosis (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 5 months ago | (#47724281)

So give the patient a fever?

Not exactly - that is worse.

It's more like give the individual cells a fever. Specifically if you can target the out of control cancer cells. The runaway machinery apparently can't cope with being too far outside normal operating range, whereas healthy cells, for the most part, can.

Hey wait... (1)

David C Billen (3753981) | about 5 months ago | (#47723757)

...does this mean I can smoke?

Re:Hey wait... (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 5 months ago | (#47723785)

...does this mean I can smoke?


You have to have sex first.

Smoking is for after.

Think how fast babies grow. Obviously intrinsic! (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | about 5 months ago | (#47723759)

Disclosure: wife's paternal aunt and mother, and my grandfather and mother, all died of various cancers. IANA cancer expert but I've read a lot.
I have always figured that cancer isn't about "runaway growth"; it's about the failure of whatever STOPS that childhood growth and keeps adults stable. Curing the body's ability to reproduce cells would be curing the ability to heal and replace and continue living. The best I expect to see is a way to put "safety brakes" in the system so that a person can continue living longer with very-slowly-growing cancer. Eventually, anything that lives, dies; it's just about timing and quality/functionality of life while you're living.

Re:Think how fast babies grow. Obviously intrinsic (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#47724167)

" anything that lives, dies; it's just about timing and quality/functionality of life while you're living."
You can't prove that until everything is dead; therefore I will live forever!

Cool research, strange conclusion (5, Interesting)

clawsoon (748629) | about 5 months ago | (#47723807)

It's too bad that this very interesting research - cancer in hydra! - is being overshadowed by sweeping statements about cancer. There are a number of species which experience little to no cancer, from naked mole rats to some whale species. There are a number of different ways that different species reduce or prevent cancer, from additional cell-death signalling via hyaluronan [nature.com] in naked mole rats to additional cell-death signalling via p53 pathways [nih.gov] in blind mole rats to replicative senescence [wiley.com] in many large mammals, to who-knows-what in eastern grey squirrels and elephants and whales.

The cancer-fighting idea in each case is something that should be near and dear to systems administrators: Redundancy. The more cell-death pathways there are, the harder it is for a series of mutations to result in immortal cancer cells. Redundant Arrays of Immortality Suppression, if you will.

This doesn't mean that we'll ever get rid of cancer in humans, mind you, because evolving a new cancer-prevention signalling pathway takes a couple of million years. But the fact that hydra get cancer doesn't have anything to do with whether we'll ever get rid of cancer in humans, either.

Re:Cool research, strange conclusion (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about 5 months ago | (#47724075)

This should certainly be modded up. As usual the press release has been somewhat distorted away from any actual claims made in the paper.

Re:Cool research, strange conclusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724463)

Also sharks. Sharks hardly ever get cancer.

It's easy to say that sharks and naked mole rats have little to do with human beings. However they are large, multi-cellular organisms, and entirely successful as species. I'd also suggest that in evolutionary terms both are much closer to humans than the hydra is.

So I think that suggesting cancer is inevitable is both defeatist and breathtakingly premature. It's speculation masquerading as news.

Which part is new (1)

Livius (318358) | about 5 months ago | (#47723817)

... in this so-called 'new' research?

Because, except for part about giving up hope based on one example in another species, medical science has known all of this for decades.

DNA replication has always been error prone, so? (5, Informative)

volvox_voxel (2752469) | about 5 months ago | (#47723825)

Just because cancer has been around for a very long time, should not make us defeatists.. I spent 5 years working on DNA sequencers and cancer cell sorting robots, and still consider biology to be hundreds of years behind other branches of science because we have not, until very recently had the tools to study the differences between cancer and normal cells at the DNA level. The Illumina machine can images two flow cells at once -- one for cancer, and one for normal cells. We can now study what happened to make the DNA replication fail and mutate, etc. Apparently it's now possible to do this for $1000.. The human genome project originally cost about 2 billion dollars.. The reduction in infrastructure and cost has been extraordinary.

We can now better identify specific cancers to take out some of the guesswork. In the journal Nature a few years ago , doctors used a DNA sequencer to identify a misdiagnosed cancer (muscle cancer in his lung, producing large tumors) who had only weeks to live, and brought him back from the brink with the right treatment. We've spend the last 40 years developing specific cures, and it was only just guess work to decide what actual cancer a patient had.. This was circa 2007-8..

One thing that really encouraged me a few years ago was a documentary from PBS called Cancer Warrior, that outlined the work of Judah Folkman and is work on angiogenic inhibitors.. Apparently tumors can trigger a persons body to grow veins to connect it to a blood supply , and that you can pick up unique chemical signatures of individual tumors in a patients urine..Strangely enough, large tumors send out chemicals that inhibit the growth of other tumors, and is why we often see many more tumors after removing one large tumor. We now have drugs that form angiogenic inhibitors ... Perhaps in the future we will understand how to create custom tumor growth inhibitor agents that have been tailored for a specific patient by analyzing the signatures in their urine.... An interesting application of synthesis and analytical chemistry.. I wonder what is the current state of research..

Re:DNA replication has always been error prone, so (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724173)

Excellent documentary about Judah Folkman and angiogenesis here [pbs.org]

Re:DNA replication has always been error prone, so (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724535)

The United Kingdom has announced a big study meant to target 100,000 citizens and cancer, specifically. My understanding is that a key goal is to understand common cancer pathways and mutations with the goal of more effective treatment. Not to mention the possibility of screening people for susceptibility to cancer.



This could be a big deal and a game-changing understanding of cancer fundamentals. They are addressing the genetic underpinnings of cancer.

too soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723873)

Too soon to tell if it's true that we can't overcome cancer, I say. We've been at our current level of understanding science (as in the process itself) for what, 100-200 years, tops? Maybe cancer is indeed intrinsic to our cells! Maybe that just means we need to make better cells, or learn to live despite it.

Someday we will, I think. Not soon but someday. And on that day, the guy above will sound like an idiot, and we'll quote him all over whatever passes for Slashdot when the day comes, chuckling to ourselves.

one day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47723875)

When we can put our own DNA under version control and have the ability to apply changes to live cells we will simultaneously cure cancer and aging. Lobsters already have biological immortality.

No duh. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 5 months ago | (#47723989)

Look, cancer is another word for evolution. It's single cells evolving into deadly killing machines that lay waste to their parent cells.

Unfortunately those parent cells are US!

The sole reason why we age is to destroy cancers (aging is a direct result of the body's limitations on cellular reproduction, which is there to keep cells from becoming cancers).

We can't cure old age, until we cure cancer, otherwise we would all get cancer and die before we made it past 50.,

But once we cure cancer, then we can get to work on stopping - and even reversing - aging.

Then we can all live in happy, unicorn land, with puppies for everyone!

Honestly, we will probably learn to make flying unicorns (and dogs that never age), long before we cure cancer.

Re:No duh. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#47724189)

"Look, cancer is another word for evolution. "
No, it is not. You just let everyone know that you know nothing about cancer and evolution, so thanks for that.

Re:No duh. (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 5 months ago | (#47724517)

You could have tried to disagree with me without insulting me. But that would have you to try and show me how I was wrong. Lets try this again, using wikipedia.

Evolution (From wikipedia): Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.

Cancer (also from evolution): a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.

Now use your brain. Abnormal = change from inherited characteristics, cell growth = biological population, and the only way cells invade and spread is via successive generations.

That's just from wikipedia. Here is a more direct explanation.

Cancer is nothing more than than a mutation in normal cells, that allow them to reproduce far more and faster than the other cells around them, to the detriment of the original host.

Evolution is the process where mutations allow normal living things to reproduce far more and faster than their competitors (i.e. the other cells around them.).

Cancer is just evolution occurring to our individual cells, to the detriment of us. If you can't see that, you need to retake biology classes.

Way, way, way before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724001)

Problem Existed before solution!1!111!
Therefore, its impossible to fix. Granted I'm mocking a slashdot summary, which is kind of like making fun of the fat prostitute's son's speech impediment, but still.

If cancer is so old... (1)

L'Ange Oliver (1521251) | about 5 months ago | (#47724021)

How did it survive evolution? What is its function?

Re:If cancer is so old... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#47724213)

It doesn't onset until well after we have propagated, so there isn't enough pressure to evolve in a manner where we have a lot of HMW-HA. See:Naked Mole Rat.

Well the Republicans are celebrating! (1)

greenwow (3635575) | about 5 months ago | (#47724031)

They love to hear this kind of news since they make so much money off of human misery. That is the way of their kind.

So it's jobs for life, as usual then! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724061)

More endless gravy trains for vivisectionists, as usual... "We will never find a cure, but keep on paying us to torture animals to death every day!"

I realise this post is completely wasted on the sociopaths who inhabit Slashdot.

"Sociopath" means a person who is incapable of feeling the suffering of others.

reformat cancer cell dna with backup of dna? (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about 5 months ago | (#47724083)

Could it be possible to use viral gene therapies to reformat a persons dna, replacing damaged cell dna with a perfect copy of a persons dna taken in their youth? This would be like an engineered self-checking mechanism. It seems to me that dna mutation/cancer is a data storage / reproduction issue...

a CATHOLIC university is talking about evolution!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724095)

seriously ?? lol

Re:a CATHOLIC university is talking about evolutio (2)

Allasard (565291) | about 5 months ago | (#47724347)

You don't know much about Catholics.

Pope Benedict XVI endorsed this statement (before becoming pope):

"According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the 'Big Bang' and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution." - Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, plenary sessions held in Rome 2000–2002, published July 2004,

Evolution, and most other science is fine with Catholics.

IANACRD but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724135)

I am not a cancer research doctor, but... has anyone considered the possibility of figuring out a way to get cancer cells simply to revert, and go back to being well-behaved, normal cells? Rather than execute them, can they not be rehabilitated? I know, such liberal thinking... but, has anyone seriously considered the possibility? Maybe even watch a group of cultured cells at close range, see what makes them become cancerous, and see step by step, and see if there's a way to reverse those steps?

Failing that, maybe figure out a way to convince them they're bad, and get them to kill themselves, via lysosomes? Bully them, basically? Okay, that may be a metaphor taken slightly too far.

Imagine if a tumor could be slapped, so to speak, and find itself thinking, "oh, that's right, I'm supposed to be lung tissue," and resume being normal lung tissue?

Or perhaps how about using a virus... put those little bastards to work for us. I understand HIV waits until a T-4 helper immune cell latches onto it... could one be repurposed to do that same trick, but only to cancer cells, and then once it gets in, makes a bunch of copies of itself, then causes the cell to explode freeing all these basically Cancer Seek-And-Destroy Viruses into the system. Actually, that could have interesting side-effects, like if like HIV, it's sexually transmissible... you end up only having to vaccinate a relatively small number of people, and let them spread it to the population, like a vaccination hand-grenade. Talk about heard-immunity!

It's combinatorics (4, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 5 months ago | (#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.


Very well put; see also cancer-preventing foods (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 5 months ago | (#47724559)

Neat post. Conceptually, single-celled organisms can't get "cancer" because, in a way, they are cancer. However, they no doubt can suffer mutations or other genetic changes (like from viruses) that make them survive and reproduce more or less well, all things considered for their current environment. Cancer has to do with a cell deciding not to play nicely with the rest in a body, and to strike out on its own, so to speak. Cancer in general is a bit like a crazy individual or small group in a society trying to take over the whole thing (current US plutocrats?); generally it works out badly for everyone as core services start to fail and the cancer cells are no longer supported by the rest of the body. Cancer is like spammers, who for a quick buck in the short term, are busy destroying email and the rest of the internet that could otherwise bring everyone abundance. Cancer is about "selfishness" where the individual ignores its part to play in the whole and where the whole supports the individual. But since evolution involves variation and selection, the underlying mechanism of cancer via mutation or viral infection also in a sense underlies evolution. So yes, it will always be with us.

I've heard most people in the USA age 40+ years old have cancerous cells in small amounts, but the immune system is continually killing them off to keep them from spreading.

Good nutrition helps with that, like Dr. Joel Fuhrman talks about
https://www.drfuhrman.com/libr... [drfuhrman.com]
"Though most people would prefer to take a pill and continue their eating habits, this will not provide the desired protection. Unrefined plant foods, with their plentiful anti-cancer compounds, must be eaten in abundance to flood the body's tissues with protective substances. Vegetables and fruits protect against all types of cancers if consumed in large enough quantities. Hundreds of scientific studies document this. The most prevalent cancers in our societies are plant-food-deficiency diseases. The benefits of lifestyle changes are proportional to the changes made. As we add more vegetable servings, we increase our phytochemical intake and leave less room in our diets for harmful foods, enhancing cancer protection even further. Let's review some of these research findings and then review what a powerful, anti-cancer diet will look like. ... A typical anti-cancer diet should contain at least 4 fresh fruits daily, at least one large raw green salad, as well as a two other cooked (steamed) vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots and peas, squash or other colorful vegetables. A huge pot of soup laden with vegetables, herbs and beans can be made once a week and conveniently taken for lunch. Raw nuts and seeds are another important, but often overlooked, group of foods with documented health benefits contributing to longevity. ..."

One thing Fuhrman misses in his discussion is that these compounds are not "Anti-cancer" as much as the human body has adapted via evolution to use these compounds to prevent or fight cancer.

He is right that cancer is best prevented rather than treated. As I've heard, it said, you can either get your chemotherapy every day from fruits and vegetables, or you can end up getting it all at once in the oncologist's office (not that most current chemotherapy is probably worth it anyway).

Fasting may also sometimes help prevent cancer as well as can a ketogenic (fat burning) diet that deprives cancer cells of sugar.
https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]
https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

But your point stands that this is all combinatorial (statistical, entropical?) about when something gets out of hand. Even when we have Elysium-like medical beds that get rid of cancer instantly, some computer virus or malicious person may make them work incorrectly. Or, as in the movie, selfish elites can keep the healing beds to themselves.

We *know* how to kill cancer that's not the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724373)

The issue is that cancer is itsy bitsy and is good at hiding amongst *billions* of cells that don't look a lot different. If we solve the problem of how to accurately *find* the cancer then we can kill it. But we can't. Yet.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47724499)

Sure it will, when we get uploaded into robot bodies.

But then you get problems like red ring of death.

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