Understanding Cancer, Some Clues
The common denominator of all types of cancer is that they are able to hide from the immune system. This is cancer’s Achilles’ Heel, and it is this weakness (clue) that could finally lead us to the cure according to some experts.
Below are some of the clues that immune scientists have learned, and can help us understand cancer, as follows:
All animals can get cancer: There was a myth that Sharks do not get cancer, they do. Sharks, like other animals, do get cancer, although less often than do people. Mole rats do too, although this is very rare.
Cancer is not caused by our modern lifestyle: Cancer is a fact of nature. 50% of dogs will get it if they live long enough. Even plants can get cancer, but their rigid cell walls prevent it from spreading.
Cancer can be contagious: Science teaches us that cancer is not contagious, but this is nottrue in the animal kingdom. There is a type of facial cancer that is destroying the Tasmanian devil population, which is spread from one to another through biting. Dogs get a sexually transmitted cancer that, in healthy dogs, progresses for 2-to-6 months, then is stable, and then gets better. But in dogs with a suppressed immune system, it grows and spreads, providing more evidence for the role the immune system plays in cancer. In people, some cancers are caused by viruses that are contagious, like HPV (human papillomavirus) and hepatitis B.
Cancer can spontaneously disappear: This is called the ‘abscopal effect,’ which means ‘away from the target.’ This is a phenomenon that can occur when you treat a cancer that is spreading locally, and it can result in the shrinkage of a tumor far from the site that was treated. It is rare, but it can happen, in animals, and in people. When science understands what causes the ‘abscopal’ effect, it could harness it to fight cancer.
A single cure for cancer is possible: Cancer is not a single disease; there are 100 different cancers. As opposed to 5 yrs ago now because of immunology scientist believe they can find a cure. Skepticism about immunology is fading, and there is a revolution in the field.
Immunotherapy is making headlines as a cancer breakthrough but this comes as no surprise to a top expert because he realized its potential by observing how the immune system affects the disease in animals.
“The way in which cancer develops in animals provides us with many clues which scientists are only just recognizing. But by realizing this, it could help lead us to a cure,” says Dr. James S. Welsh, a nationally known cancer expert.
Dr. Welsh is the author of the new book “Sharks Get Cancer: Mole Rats Don’t.” In the book, he explores the similarities between cancer that occurs in animals and humans.
A main thread that runs through the book is the connection between cancer and the immune system, Dr. Welsh says.
“Normally, our immune system is programmed to fight off invaders, like cancer cells. But cancer is able to trick the immune system and remain invisible. This happens in animals and also in people as well,” says Dr. Welsh, who is President of the American College of Radiation Oncology and a Professor at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Il.
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