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Thread: The BIG C

  1. #1 The BIG C 
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    Hi guys, I'm beginning to think my questions are a little too 'basic'. Perhaps a bit too boring for this forum ? If so I don't mind being directed to another forum The problem is I have so many questions !

    This question concerns cancer. I have asked a similar question on this forum before but I would like to expand my understanding on the subject. My dad is suffering quite a bit with cancer and I've known lots of people who have and still do suffer with cancer so questions have been raised in my head.

    Cancer is biological ? yes ? does it have something to do with mutants ? If so, are all mutants dangerous/negative ? Did we humans create these mutants some how with pollutants, carcinogenics ? Or have these mutants always been there ?

    BARCUD


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Replication errors happen, and build up. Cancer would still happen even in the absense of carcinogens.

    In some cases like with HPV, the virus encodes proteins that upregulate oncogenes that promote cancer. Carcinogens likewise are agents that promote random mutations.

    Basically if the right combination of genes are mutated in cells to allow them to grow out of control you get cancer.


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  4. #3 Re: The BIG C 
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    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    Hi guys, I'm beginning to think my questions are a little too 'basic'. Perhaps a bit too boring for this forum ? If so I don't mind being directed to another forum The problem is I have so many questions !

    This question concerns cancer. I have asked a similar question on this forum before but I would like to expand my understanding on the subject. My dad is suffering quite a bit with cancer and I've known lots of people who have and still do suffer with cancer so questions have been raised in my head.

    Cancer is biological ? yes ? does it have something to do with mutants ? If so, are all mutants dangerous/negative ? Did we humans create these mutants some how with pollutants, carcinogenics ? Or have these mutants always been there ?

    BARCUD
    Sorry to hear about your father. Hope he pulls through ok.

    Cancer is biological yes. Cancer is caused by specific mutations. Mutations in genes which control the cell's replicative behaviour will result in the cell replicating out of control and thus form a tumor. With different cancers there are other elements that come into play but this is the main mechanism which they tend to have in common.

    Not all mutations are dangerous but the majority are. Mutations can occur simply because of DNA copying errors made by cells during cell division or can be caused by radiation and various other forms of mutagenic energy and chemicals as well as by a number of viruses which edit our DNA. Mutations typically can't offer much benefit unless we inherit them (and are thus present in all of our cells). A mutation in some random tissue cell is unlikely to be beneficial, or even noticeable. Normally cells which undergo tumorgenesis are destroyed by our immune systems. We develop tumors constantly, we only notice the ones the slip through a very effective net.

    It is likely that cancer has always existed. As long as there have been multicellular organisms, there have been mutations that can cause the breakdown of cell division regulation. Increasing incidences of cancer in modern times are probably due to a combination of factors. A better understanding of cancer means that it is identified more often in modern times. Better general healthcare means that more people are surviving long enough to get cancer (diseases like TB used to be much bigger killers). Of course pollution and things like smoking have their part to play, but this curious habit some people have of trying to identify everything that even marginally increases cancer risk is quite silly. The papers in particular seem to report on a new cancer cause (or cure) every week. The smoking thing seems to have made everyone think we can find causes for all cancers that are nice and neat. It's a fantasy. There are a relatively small pool of carcinogenic things out there, and while I wouldn't assume we've found them all, fretting over it is pretty much pointless.
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    Hi guys, I'm sure there have been advances in controling cancer, my dad is testament to that fact as some years ago he would have been dead by now. I talk about 'controling' cancer rather than 'curing' it as I'm sure a cure is way beyond our knowledge as yet.

    When it comes to controling something like cancer with drugs I'm a bit confused about the drugs themselves. Just what are the drugs classified as ? surely they are not biological ? They would have to be made from biological living matter.

    If cancer is biological then can we not fight cancer biologically ? Identify the mutant/s responsible for that specific cancer then find out what inhibits that particular mutants growth and reproduction/multiplying.

    BARCUD
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    There are biological therapeutics and 'small molecule' (non-biological) therapeutics.

    Biologicals are identified as things your body makes to fight cancer. The gene product is then manufactured artificially and trials are done to see if it helps treat cancer.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    Hi guys, I'm sure there have been advances in controling cancer, my dad is testament to that fact as some years ago he would have been dead by now. I talk about 'controling' cancer rather than 'curing' it as I'm sure a cure is way beyond our knowledge as yet.

    When it comes to controling something like cancer with drugs I'm a bit confused about the drugs themselves. Just what are the drugs classified as ? surely they are not biological ? They would have to be made from biological living matter.

    If cancer is biological then can we not fight cancer biologically ? Identify the mutant/s responsible for that specific cancer then find out what inhibits that particular mutants growth and reproduction/multiplying.

    BARCUD
    I think this question may be rather too large to deal with here. We don't tend to classify drugs as biological and non-biological. Most cancer drugs are of a non-biological origin, but this is increasingly changing for a number of reasons. Many of the newer and more experimental drugs are based on things like antibodies. The new general idea (and it's one we've been struggling with for some time) is specificity. That means targeting cancer cells and only cancer cells. Identifying the difference comes down to their mutant nature to an extent, though of course it isn't quite as simple as all that.

    "Curing cancer" is something of a joke in scientific circles- not because we cannot eliminate many forms of cancer- but because the idea of a catch-all treatment for what is actually a massive set of quite varied diseases, is rather hopelessly optimistic. We are making progress on many fronts, but it is slow progress by comparison to medicine's "golden age", and that has lead many in the general public to become cynical. I have no doubt that we will one day have the means to prevent most cancers and to efficiently treat anything that gets through. But there's a lot of hard work to be done.
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    Hi, in terms of our bodies still evolving, has the human body shown any signs of fighting off cancer mutants themselves through the immune system ? or by producing some sort of anto bodies ?

    BARCUD
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    Not really, the mutations occur in individuals cells during life, there is no way one can be born without the possibility of these developing. There are some people born with mutations which hugely predispose them to developping cancer early in life. You made have heard about this in breast and colon cancer.

    The immune system is being exploited in some modern treatments as a way of both preventing and treating certain cancers.
    In fact, everyone produces cancerous or precancerous cells every day but the immune system recognises and eliminates them. However, as we age, the immune system becomes less able to recognise/eliminate these cells as well and they are given the chance to proliferate, leading to cancer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    We don't tend to classify drugs as biological and non-biological.
    That's absolutely wrong, and in fact entire companies are often biased towards either biological or small molecule, with some crossover now beginning.

    Genentech is biological, as one example, Merck is small molecule.
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    Sorry, I see Biologista already mentioned the role of our immune system

    From a laypersons perspective I'm beginning to see now just how complex the cause and treatment of cancers can be. You tend to think that cancer is cancer and the only difference is the part of the body which is affected. But, not so !

    So in terms of our immune systems we must all be different ? A particular persons immune system may be geared up to combat a certain mutant cancer cell/s, but another persons may not be. Have I got that right ?

    Is it then possible, once a particular cancer is identified, to boost the immune system to tackle this particular cancer ? Forgive my ignorance if this is already the case. I'm thinking that a boosted immune system and certains drugs may be combined to provide optimum affect.

    I'm also reading that certain foods may well help protect a body from cancer. Greens, and vegetables e.t.c. This makes sense I guess. But I've also heard of people taking small doses of aspirin ! Can anyone explain the advantages of this for me ?

    And finally, sorry guys I hope all these questions are relevent ? Is there any research being done into finding natural ways of combatting cancer through natural drugs found in plants and other natural sources ?

    BARCUD
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    Our immune systems are different, in terms of the antibodies we can produce, but only to a very, very minor extent, the vast majority of us are the same.

    Are bodies are geared to fight mutations, but its when these fail due to various factors that we get cancer. The immune system failing on us is sort of a cause of allowing proliferation.

    Yes boosting the immune sytem could be of help which is why vaccines against cancers are being explored.

    Aspirin can help prevent colon cancer as it is a cyclo oxygenase inhibitor but this is a bit complicated.

    The closest to naturally stopping cancer is preventatively eating a good diet, getting exercise and not smoking.
    Drugs against cancer are really being designed against mutations or against their effects, it is unlikely that we will find some of these in nature and most of the time these are found by coincidence or accident but Im sure there is a certain amount going into this area.
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    Thanks for answering all those questions Robbie.

    Are there any websites that you think may be of some help to learn more about cancer ?

    BARCUD
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    We don't tend to classify drugs as biological and non-biological.
    That's absolutely wrong, and in fact entire companies are often biased towards either biological or small molecule, with some crossover now beginning.

    Genentech is biological, as one example, Merck is small molecule.
    Absolutely wrong, huh? "Biological medicines" is not a term I've noted to be in common use. Can you point me to some papers in high-impact journals which use the term? Hell, can you find it for me on Genentech's website?

    We certainly differentiate between small-molecule drugs and those based on "large molecules" such as recombinant proteins. But some small molecules are "biological" (such as small-molecule steroids and numerous biological secondary metabolites), so a biological/non-biological divide is not really meaningful.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    Sorry, I see Biologista already mentioned the role of our immune system

    From a laypersons perspective I'm beginning to see now just how complex the cause and treatment of cancers can be. You tend to think that cancer is cancer and the only difference is the part of the body which is affected. But, not so !

    So in terms of our immune systems we must all be different ? A particular persons immune system may be geared up to combat a certain mutant cancer cell/s, but another persons may not be. Have I got that right ?
    There will be some variation in that respect, but typically most humans have a broad capacity to destroy a range of tumour cells. You are correct in your assumption that variation plays a role in tumour development.

    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    Is it then possible, once a particular cancer is identified, to boost the immune system to tackle this particular cancer ? Forgive my ignorance if this is already the case. I'm thinking that a boosted immune system and certains drugs may be combined to provide optimum affect.
    Yes and this is a strategy that is being pursued in trials. Targeting our "cytotoxic" (cell-killing) cells towards tumours is a major strategy for the emerging generation of cancer therapies. Typically this involves administration of some form of antibody-based adaptor molecules, or even ex vivo (outside of patient body) modifications to some of those cells.

    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    I'm also reading that certain foods may well help protect a body from cancer. Greens, and vegetables e.t.c. This makes sense I guess. But I've also heard of people taking small doses of aspirin ! Can anyone explain the advantages of this for me ?
    Much of that is, as I understand it, based on rather weak data. It can certainly be said that a good diet, regular exercise and avoidance of smoking can cut the risk of cancer. But just what part each element plays is often quite ambiguous and the role of other factors that may have been ignored in the study also muddies the waters considerably. In terms of vegetable consumption, it could be other factors that high-consumers have in common that are the main influence. A few very specific risk factors (smoking, ionizing radiation, and other strong carcinogens) are known, but beyond that the general "balanced diet, regular excercise" doctor's advice seems to be the only way to go. I would urge you not to put too much stock in the "cancer cause (or cure) of the week" touted by the papers and broadcast media. To put it plainly, the picture is not clear.

    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    And finally, sorry guys I hope all these questions are relevent ? Is there any research being done into finding natural ways of combatting cancer through natural drugs found in plants and other natural sources ?

    BARCUD
    Your questions are very relevant and it's great that you're trying to learn more. As to "natural sources", these are always high on the list for the big pharma companies. After all, the first panel of "golden age" drugs, the antibiotics, were derived from natural sources (mostly fungi).
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    Antibiotics - I've heard about people using antibiotics, then after a while the particular antibiotic being used has less of an effect leading to the use of a different antibiotic. And then I've also heard of a particular drug being used to combat a cancer only to become inaffective after a while. Again in this case a different drug has to be used.

    Just what is happening in these instances ? Are biological mutants a lot cleverer than manufactured drugs ? Are biological mutants cleverer than biological antibiotics ?

    BARCUD
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    We don't tend to classify drugs as biological and non-biological.
    That's absolutely wrong, and in fact entire companies are often biased towards either biological or small molecule, with some crossover now beginning.

    Genentech is biological, as one example, Merck is small molecule.
    Absolutely wrong, huh? "Biological medicines" is not a term I've noted to be in common use. Can you point me to some papers in high-impact journals which use the term? Hell, can you find it for me on Genentech's website?

    We certainly differentiate between small-molecule drugs and those based on "large molecules" such as recombinant proteins. But some small molecules are "biological" (such as small-molecule steroids and numerous biological secondary metabolites), so a biological/non-biological divide is not really meaningful.
    Nonetheless, it is a valid term that is understood by most if not all researchers in the field.

    You are capable enough to do your own search. The 2003 book Principles of Cancer Biotherapy should be sufficient for your interest, if you can't be bothered.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=qnM...um=3&ct=result
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    We don't tend to classify drugs as biological and non-biological.
    That's absolutely wrong, and in fact entire companies are often biased towards either biological or small molecule, with some crossover now beginning.

    Genentech is biological, as one example, Merck is small molecule.
    Absolutely wrong, huh? "Biological medicines" is not a term I've noted to be in common use. Can you point me to some papers in high-impact journals which use the term? Hell, can you find it for me on Genentech's website?

    We certainly differentiate between small-molecule drugs and those based on "large molecules" such as recombinant proteins. But some small molecules are "biological" (such as small-molecule steroids and numerous biological secondary metabolites), so a biological/non-biological divide is not really meaningful.
    Nonetheless, it is a valid term that is understood by most if not all researchers in the field.

    You are capable enough to do your own search. The 2003 book Principles of Cancer Biotherapy should be sufficient for your interest, if you can't be bothered.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=qnM...um=3&ct=result
    So, what you've given me there is a page of a book on cancer therapy that uses the term "biological molecules" a bunch of times. Cheers. Not quite what we were talking about though. Which was "biological medicine". I was also asking for research papers, not books. At any rate, "biological molecules" can and does include small molecules. Steroids and antibiotics are usually small molecules, for example, but are very much "biological". I think we've gotten into a semantic argument here, and that's little help to Barcud. I was rather annoyed that you referred to my comment as "absolutely wrong" and you've failed to show it to be such, so I'm satisfied. Shall we move on now?
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    Antibiotics - I've heard about people using antibiotics, then after a while the particular antibiotic being used has less of an effect leading to the use of a different antibiotic.
    Bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics. A pure process of natural selection (or unnatural, I guess). This most common will happen when a bacterial infection is not entirely destroyed by an antibiotic. The bacteria that are left tend to be the ones that can resist the antibiotic for longer. So every time you fail to get rid of an infection (or ignore your doctor's advice to always finish your course of antibiotics regardless of symptoms) you leave behind the most resistant bacteria. Next time around that antibiotic may not be as effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    And then I've also heard of a particular drug being used to combat a cancer only to become inaffective after a while. Again in this case a different drug has to be used.
    In the case of cancer cells, I'm not sure whether the same principle applies. They seem to develop the capacity to pump chemotherapy drugs back out of the cell, so the drug is less likely to hit that critical concentration needed to kill the cancer cell. That may represent a selection process (ie the cancer cells that surivive are the ones that just happen to have good molecular pumps). As I understand it, there are trials under way in which they're trying to block that process to enhance conventional chemotherapy. But really chemo is probably not the way forward for cancer therapy.

    Quote Originally Posted by BARCUD
    Just what is happening in these instances ? Are biological mutants a lot cleverer than manufactured drugs ? Are biological mutants cleverer than biological antibiotics ?

    BARCUD
    "Cleverer" is not the term really. It's just a numbers game. If there are enough bacteria (in the case of antibiotics) or cells (for cancer) with enough randomised features, then you'll get the emergence of resistance if your killing is not 100%. The remnant are always going to be that bit more likely to be resistant.
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  20. #19  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    They are not cleverer. Bacteria just evolve rather fast. Unlike medication.
    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

    - Arnaud Amalric

    http://spuriousforums.com/index.php
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    They are not cleverer. Bacteria just evolve rather fast. Unlike medication.
    Exactly. This is also why larger animals like humans have an adaptive immune system that actually undergoes a form of limited evolution of its own.
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