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    Cancer Cells And Rabbits - Not All Are Created Equal
    By Jennifer Wong | December 15th 2011 03:59 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Jennifer

    My column covers the latest primary research discoveries in the life-science discipline. Much of what is reported here are considered discoveries...

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    Cancer cells are, well, cancer cells; cells that grow uncontrollably in the host, and ignore all patterns and signals that govern the structural integrity of tissue and organs.

    Much research in the last several decades have defined molecular features attributed to cancer cells, and more importantly what specifically can kill them. Decades of work goes by with the discovery of drugs that change the lives of many individuals and families touched by this disease. Yet despite the euphoria of success, scientists come face to face with a troubling problem of cancer cell resistance to treatment.

    The same goes for rabbits thriving in Australia.

    Rabbits??

    Well yes, like cancer cells, rabbits living Australia have no living predators, and so can grow exponentially to unmanageable numbers that will eat the Australia continent threadbare.

    According to Professor McFadden during his talk at UBC, these rabbits were once extremely susceptible to myxoma virus infection- a virus that is essential harmless to all animal species except the rabbit.

    While inoculation of Australian wilderness with this virus had once completely wiped out the rabbit population, the residents weren't happy for long because- yes you guessed it- the rabbits came back. And here's the catch: these rabbits are resistant to myxoma virus. Well, the story about the rabbits in Australia is a very good analogy illustrating our present fight against cancer. Through our understanding of the properties of cancer cells including their weaknesses, we managed to create drugs to wipe them out- and curing pateints of cancer.

    But watch out.

    Like the residents of Australia who witnessed the fateful return of the rabbits, cancer patients often witness the fateful return of their cancer (sometimes with vengeance) after a once successful treatment.

    Clearly, the challenge for cancer researchers is to develop multifaceted strategies that not only target the bulk of the tumor population, but the resilient outliers/mutants that may escape treatment and contribute to recurrence.  

    Comments

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Another multi-faceted strategy is that instead of using germ warfare we could just harvest and eat and/or export the rabbit meat that is a valuable food source for people who are either starving or like me enjoy the occasional rabbit hotpot. We are already doing this with the kangaroos and have done for many years because they also can become like a cancer on the land if left uncontrolled and are also a valuable and healthy food source.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    gpawelski

    Molecular profiling extracts protein, DNA or RNA, and measures the genetic information present in "fixed" tissue. The intent is to match patients to therapy based on "static" data. That is, the presence of a gene should, according to their reasoning, confer sensitivity to a drug.

    The proof of this concept is sorely lacking. The more sophisticated researchers in the field are beginning to appreciate that the complexity of human biology demands more functional analytic platforms that encompass all of the mechanisms of response and resistance.

    In this light, the presence of a gene cannot predict whether that gene will be expressed, active, counter-acted by a complementary gene, or functional.

    Human biology should be taken at face value in its most complex state. This is known as the phenotype and should be examined for the biological features that these interconnected cellular systems create.

    This field now known as biosystematics, or systems biology, recognizes the redundancies and uncertainties that separate the genotype (molecular profiling) from the phenotype (functional analyses) are not trivial.