Saturday, March 30, 2013


Another quickie today: Could a single treatment be effective in virtually every type of cancer?

It's an accepted fact that when we say "cancer," as in "finding a cure for cancer," we aren't really talking about one single disease. There are at least 200 different types of cancer, probably more. Heck, there are anywhere from 30 to 60 types of NHL, so I'm guessing there are ultimately more than 200 types of cancer overall.

The number of types has increased because researchers have been able to look closer and closer at cancer cells and determine their genetic makeup. So while Follicular Lymphoma cells might all look the same under a microscope, a deeper genetic analysis shows that there are actually several types, and perhaps each of those types will respond better to a particular type of treatment.

This has been the basis of much cancer research for the past few years -- understand the differences that make each person's cancer unique to him or her. Treat accordingly.

So it's a little strange to see researchers saying the opposite -- that maybe all cancer cells have something in common that can be targeted with a single treatment.

That something is a protein, CD47.

Researchers have known that some blood cancers have CD47 on the surfaces. But now they are discovering that many types of cancer -- including breast, ovarian, colon, and liver, among others -- have an excess of CD47. Targeting this protein might help shrink cancer tumors, as has been happening in tests with mice already.

It's a strange concept, given what we've known about cancer for a few years now. But maybe these researchers on to something. Looks promising so far.

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