Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Potential Lung Cancer Detection

Boston University researchers have identified a biochemical pathway in cells lining the airways of smokers whose activity rises before lung cancer develops, making it a potential target for an early detection test and possible treatment.

Writing in today's ScienceTranslational Medicine, Dr. Avrum Spira and his colleagues from the BU School of Medicine and the University of Utah say they had already shown that a particular sequence of genetic activity, called the PI3K pathway, is heightened in patients with lung cancer. Their new findings suggest that this activity precedes tumor formation.

Lung cancer, which is the most common fatal cancer, is usually diagnosed in its later stages when treatment is less effective. Scientists have been searching for a way to determine who among the 10 to 20 percent of smokers and former smokers will go on to develop lung cancer so they can perhaps be followed more closely and their cancers caught earlier.
I remember vividly that for years after my father died of lung cancer and then later when I took care of Malka, another person with fatal lung cancer, news of a new developments in the fight against lung cancer would be bitter sweet. I was happy that new cures were being developed, but bitter that it came to late to help the people I knew and loved. Over time I have come to just be happy about the news, more people I know will die of lung cancer and I'm glad it's getting some attention.

Even though lung cancer is the leading fatal cancer it doesn't get the kind of funding or adoration from the public as say Breast Cancer. It's not a "pink ribbon" kind of disease. My father smoked. Malka who was 39 years old when she passed away didn't smoke a single cigarette in all her life. There is a stigma attached that just because you made poor decision you must suffer the ultimate penalty for it. I wonder why people feel this way? Humans are fallible they make horrible decisions all the time. But so many people like Malka or Cathy Seipp never smoked in their lives, yet they suffer the stigma of lung cancer being "your own fault" disease. My father, an incredible human being, didn't deserve to die at 48. So yeah, I'm pretty happy research is done. I hope lung cancer stops being the "Did s/he smoke?" cancer.

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