By the end of this year, over 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. Over 600,000 will die from the disease.
Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer, and while it is a frequent occurrence (almost 40% of Americans will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetime), survival rates are promising.
However, there is one particular stage of cancer that proves the most troublesome—and the most deadly. It’s called metastasis, and new research may have uncovered a way to defeat it.
What Is Metastasis?
The main reason cancer is such a serious disease is because of its ability to spread throughout the body, infecting vital organs and impairing functioning. When this spread occurs, an individual has metastatic cancer.
Most cancer deaths result from this type of disease.
Metastatic cancer refers to the illness’s initial starting point in medical terminology, meaning a patient with breast cancer that spreads to the lungs has metastatic breast cancer. Many times, metastatic cancer is referred to as stage IV cancer.
The actual process through which cancer spreads is known as metastasis. The cancer cells break off from the primary tumor, spreading to nearby parts. Death is a result of the damage done to significant organs, such as the brain or heart.
The University of Alberta’s recent research is shedding some light on how doctors can stop cancer’s spread. Because metastasis kills 90% of cancer patients, the new findings have huge implications.
According to the researchers, their team uncovered 11 potential genes that highly impact the spread of cancer. None of the genes are cancer specific, meaning they encourage growth regardless of cancer type.
Using a custom-made platform with a shell-less avian embryo, researchers watched the spread of cancer cells in real time. They then used a molecular tool to insert short hairpin RNA vectors into the cells. These artificial RNA molecules halt gene expression. The goal, of course, was to see if the cancer cells could be sufficiently stopped.
Researchers identified compact colonies of cancer cells; they were prevented from spreading to the rest of the body. But their work wasn’t done. Researchers also removed the clusters to identify which genes were responsible for metastasis.
Identifying the 11 genes responsible for aiding in the spread of cancer has profound impacts. It means cancer could remain isolated and controlled within a certain area, eliminating the numerous deaths of metastatic cancer causes.
Researchers estimate that inhibiting these genes could block over 99.5% of cancerous cells. They now hope to test the genes as drug targets to impede spreading. Doing so could drastically weaken or even eliminate metastasis.
“Being told you have cancer is a terrifying ordeal,” says a personal injury attorney in Jericho, NY. “Patients have to put absolute trust in their doctors, and physicians have the responsibility to find the best treatment available.”
With these new findings, perhaps a useful and effective treatment is just around the corner.