“Cancer centers racing to map patients’ genes”

Although it contains nothing specific to prostate cancer, many readers of this blog might be interested in a story in today’s New York Times entitled “Cancer centers racing to map patients’ genes.” At present, the clinical and economic value of this strategy is open to question, but, 10 years from now …?

5 Responses

  1. I’m hopeful that we will eventually come up with actual cures for cancers (that don’t almost kill the patient in the process). However, I read an excellent (but sobering) book relating the history of the “war on cancer” over the last hundred years or so (The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer). There have been so many times that it has looked like we were right on the brink of discovering that magic cure, only to be deeply disappointed. The book also talks about how the “war” has been funded (apropos of the article linked to above).

  2. Dear Doug:

    I have also read Dr. Mukherjee’s book. It seems much more likely to me that we will continue to see the same sorts of progress against the various types of cancer as we have seen against things like heart diseases and respiratory disorders, whereby we convert the disorders from immediately life threatening into chronic conditions that can be lived with and that can be treated successfully with treatments that have fewer side effects.

    Over the past 20 years, multiple myeloma (as an example) has been modified from a cancer that came with a median life expectancy of just 3 years at diagnosis to one with a median life expectancy that is now very nearly 5 years and with which people can level for 20+ years. In 1992 there was only one know effective treatment for myeloma (melphalan + prednisone) today there are many approved treatments (including bone marrow transplantation and several new drugs).

    Will there be people who can be truly cured of their cancer? Sure there will. But it is unlikely that we will ever be able to cure all cancers. Why? Because cancers mutate and become treatment resistant, just as bacteria mutate and become antibiotic resistant.

  3. Hi Doug,

    The American Association for Cancer Research has published two books (covering 2011 and 2012) that provide excellent perspective on progress against cancer. Both are quite readable. The 2012 one is about 100 pages in length. The books also emphasize the need for satisfactory funding to continue federally funded cancer research. You can get them online, free.

    I think you will be impressed.


    I know of one leading medical oncologist that is using gene analysis for some of his patients with especially challenging cases. He sends the patient’s DNA to a special lab that checks the genes against chemotherapy options for various cancers. At times the patient’s prostate cancer will be based on genes that make treatment by chemotherapy for a different kind of cancer likely to succeed. He has seen some dramatic successes.

    I suspect this use of genes is still rare.

  5. Doug: Try again now!

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