Rethinking Healthcare

Rethinking cancer by knowing its DNA

Rethinking cancer by knowing its DNA

Posting in Cancer

What scientists in England and the U.S. have really uncovered is a giant puzzle. Which of these 23,000 lung cancer mutations, or the 30,000 in skin cancer, transform a cell into a monster? We don't know.

The successful DNA sequencing of lung cancer, and the 23,000 mutations separating it from normal cells, is a milestone in cancer study if not treatment.

Improvements in treatment, like tagging cells and then zapping them with energy, are still all on the cellular level. A cancer cell is like a person and we must kill it to live.

The results of DNA sequencing in treatment will be different. They will not be brute force. They will give us a personalized view of the cancer killing us, and perhaps drugs that go after just the cancer we have. We may get new tests for pre-cancer.

What scientists in England and the U.S. have really uncovered is a giant puzzle. Which of these 23,000 lung cancer mutations, or the 30,000 in skin cancer, transform a cell into a monster? We don't know.

It's interesting to think that, based on the math, we cause a mutation in our lung's DNA for each 15 cigarettes smoked, but what does that get us, really?

Once the cell turns to cancer, it's kill it or be killed.

You can best think of the new discoveries as akin to finding the Rosetta Stone. Here we have a way of translating from the language of cancer to the language of a normal cell. We can expand on that knowledge and translate back-and-forth among all normal and abnormal DNA structures, with time and computing power.

But the why and the how are still out there, a whole undiscovered country scientists are only now able to explore. While we continue battling cancer with brute force.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure