Saturday, June 7, 2008

Defending Precancer Research: 1

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am an advocate for studying the precancers. I believe that successful treatment of the precancers is feasible, and that it will lead to the near-eradication of cancer.

In a prior blog, I listed arguments, that I have encountered over the years, against the the importance of precancer research. This is the first of several blogs where I respond to the arguments.

Argument. There is no such thing as a precancer. The lesions that are called precancers are simply early (or small) cancers.

Response. Some people question why we need to specify some lesions as precancers when we know that carcinogenesis is a multistep process and that every cancer traverses many un-named biological states as it develops into a fully malignant lesion. Why can't we recognize that precancers are just an early form of cancer and refer to the precancers by the name of its developed cancer? Wouldn't that make life a lot easier than naming and characterizing a new disease entity for the pre-invasive stage of every cancer?

Much as we all like data simplification, it just can't be done in the case of the precancers.

Precancers have specific, characteristic properties that separate them from cancers. They are not simply small, or early, versions of cancers. These properties, particularly spontaneous regression and the transition from non-invasion to invasion, deserve to be studied. If we are to study the biology of the preinvasive stage of cancers, we will need to have standard identifiers for this stage, so that all investigators will use the same morphologic features and biologic features to identify the same named lesions, Otherwise, the research results, from laboratory to laboratory, will not be comparable, and the field of precancer research will not advance.

Next blog in precancer series

First blog in the series

Jules Berman

key words: preneoplasia, premalignant, preneoplastic, incipient neoplasia, pre-cancer, dysplasia, metaplasia, intraepithelial neoplasia, premalignancy, premalignancies, precancers, precancerous, carcinogenesis, pathology, cancer research, cancer funding, cancer research funding, funding for cancer research

Science is not a collection of facts. Science is what facts teach us; what we can learn about our universe, and ourselves, by deductive thinking. From observations of the night sky, made without the aid of telescopes, we can deduce that the universe is expanding, that the universe is not infinitely old, and why black holes exist. Without resorting to experimentation or mathematical analysis, we can deduce that gravity is a curvature in space-time, that the particles that compose light have no mass, that there is a theoretical limit to the number of different elements in the universe, and that the earth is billions of years old. Likewise, simple observations on animals tell us much about the migration of continents, the evolutionary relationships among classes of animals, why the nuclei of cells contain our genetic material, why certain animals are long-lived, why the gestation period of humans is 9 months, and why some diseases are rare and other diseases are common. In “Armchair Science”, the reader is confronted with 129 scientific mysteries, in cosmology, particle physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Beginning with simple observations, step-by-step analyses guide the reader toward solutions that are sometimes startling, and always entertaining. “Armchair Science” is written for general readers who are curious about science, and who want to sharpen their deductive skills.