Monday, June 9, 2008

Defending Precancer Research: 3

As regular readers of this blog know, 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 third of several blogs where I respond to the arguments.

Argument. There are many genetic and morphological disparities among the different recognized precancers. Since these lesions seem to have no properties in common, other than the defining property of "cancer precedence", it hardly seems as though they should be assigned any biological class.

Response. As discussed in Chapter 4, there are many diverse types of precancers. Squamous dysplasia of the uterine cervix, tubular adenoma of colon, barrett esophagus, myelodysplasia, and nephrogenic rests, are all types of precancers, but they seem to be biologically unrelated.

The observation is correct, and the conclusion is valid. The precancers do not form a biological class of neoplasms, any moreso than flying animals form a single class of related animals.

Figure caption. Public domain image from, "The Outline of Science: A Plain Story Simply Told," by J. Arthur Thomson, originally copyrighted 1922, with copyright now expired.

The fact that there are types of precancers that differ greatly from one another does not imply that precancers do not exist or that we cannot study the biology of precancers. Nobody asserts that flight does not exist or that flight is an invalid area area of investigation, simply because different classes of animals can fly.

Because precancers come in different biological forms, it is necessary to create a biological categorization of the precancers, so that the types of precancers with similar phenotypes can be grouped together. This was the subject of an open access paper published by Don Henson and myself.

Jules J Berman and Donald E Henson. Classifying the precancers: A metadata approach. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2003, 3:8.

Next blog in precancer 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