Monday, August 28, 2006

We are truly blessed to live in these times

When I was a child some 40 years ago, a Cancer Diagnosis was almost universally a death sentence. Today the number of truly incurable cancers are falling like flies. And even for cancers that are still incurable, the length of time people have to live after diagnosis is generally much longer. Today I bring you word of yet another advancement in the fight against cancer. It is still a laboratory therapy and has not been tried in humans yet, but it looks promising.

First a bit of background on how many cancer cells work. Cancer cells are cells that, through mutation have managed to turn off all the built in regulators to cellular growth. Cancer cells, are for all intents and purposes immortal, much like stem cells. In fact many of the same genetic switches that make stem cells what they are are also found in cancer cells. One switch that may kinds of cancer cells have bypassed is the one for “programmed cell death” known in biology circles as apoptosis. Normal cells who for one reason or another begin replicating uncontrollably either detect that the replication mechanism is haywire and trigger a series of enzyme reactions that cause the cell to self destruct, or if that fails, responds to external stimuli from the immune system that causes the cell to die, but some cancer cells have turned off that external kill switch. They do this by shutting down the conversion of an enzyme called procaspase-3 into an enzyme called caspase-3. Caspase-3 is the final link in the chain of enzymes that leads to cell death. This leads to a buildup of procaspase-3 in the tumor cell.

Chemist Paul Hergenrother of the University of Illinois and an international group of researchers have found a small synthetic molecule that completes the conversion of procaspase-3 into caspase-3 in a number of cancer cells that have this particular molecular defect. They are calling it PAC-1 or Procaspase-3 Activating Compound. It is believed that sensitivity to this compound can be tested for to help determine which patients might be helped by this treatment.

Hat Tip: HyScience

3 Comments:

Blogger Jason said...

Anything that fights cancer and keeps people alive HEE HAW!!!!

August 28, 2006 4:46 PM  
Blogger Pigilito said...

If this pans out they can just keep awarding the Nobel Prize in Medicine to his team over and over.

August 29, 2006 2:13 PM  
Anonymous EricPWJohnson said...

and to think they are still pulling plugs on Gods gifts of life....

September 10, 2006 9:04 AM  

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