When will we win the war against cancer?
Thirty years ago America's president declared ``war on cancer''. This year, in the US alone, 1,500 men, women and children lose their personal battle with cancer every day. When will the war end?
I believe that for many cancers the war will end soon. Thanks to knowledge from basic research, we have new tools with which to attack cancer. These new tools are providing more rapid diagnosis and more effective treatments. They are producing new drugs that target molecular changes unique to cancer cells, making it possible to predict who may be at risk for developing cancer because of genetic or environmental factors. These advances will save many lives.
Cancer affects many different organs and tissues in the body. Although cancers differ greatly in their appearance and behavior, they have a common cause: damage to genes. Genes are chemical coding units that specify the structure and function of our bodies. All the cells in our bodies have the same complement of genes, half from each of our parents. What makes one kind of cell different from another is the combination of genes that are active in each cell.