Sunday, June 8, 2008

Defending Precancer Research: 2

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 second of several blogs where I respond to the arguments.

Argument. The transition from precancer to cancer is characterized by the acquisition of invasiveness. However, there is no practical way to determine the precise moment that invasiveness is acquired by a lesion. Therefore, there is no practical method to reliably distinguish a precancer from a cancer in every instance (i.e., there is no way to be confident that a lesion has not acquired the ability to invade). Therefore, precancers have no validity as biological entities.

Response. Biologists are not very adept at determining the precise moment of naturally occurring events. For example, the moment of death has been a subject of debate for centuries. Whenever we think we have a good measurement (e.g., heart-beat cessation, flat electroencephalogram), an exception occurs. Even the phrase, "the patient has expired," is an anachronism that dates to the time when the cessation of breathing (i.e. a final expiration, with no subsequent inspiration) was considered ample demonstration of death. Nonetheless, nobody would argue that death does not exist simply because we fail to accurately measure the moment when life stops.

If we cannot accurately measure the moment when a precancer becomes a cancer, it no more invalidates the existence of the precancer than it invalidates the existence of the cancer.

Next precancer blog entry

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