Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Laron Syndrome: A key to cancer prevention?

In a current event article by MSNBC, there is a group of Ecuadorian people with the extremely rare disease Laron Syndrome. This disease results in dwarfism, affecting only two-hundred fifty people world wide. In the genes, there is a mutation in the gene that codes the growth hormones in the body, affecting the growth of that particular person with Laron Syndrome. Because of the mutation, people with this disease have low levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1). Why is this disease so special? The Ecuadorian people, because of this disease and low levels of IGF1 are nearly immune to both cancer and diabetes. This is because people with high levels of IGF1 are more at risk for cancer, meaning that they are growing at a faster rate (IGF1 directly influencing the speed at which you cells grow). People who use IGFI as a "steroid" (to grow bigger at a faster rate) are also more likely at risk for cancer and other diseases. (Link)
This article shows the beginning of a potential cure to cancer, if it were possible to lower the levels of IGF1 in high risk people, of all people in general, the risk of cancer would be very, very slim. This article was very uplifting, stating that you don't have to have this disease just to have low levels of IGF1, you can have low levels and not have the disease at all, just be pretty much immune to cancer!
Although this is a good sign, and scientists will further discover ways to lower normal people's IGF1 levels, there is always a risk with playing with someone's genes. If scientists thought that they could change the coding of a person's genes for the sake of making someone immune to cancer and diabetes, one slight mistake could result in difficulties for the rest of their lives, and easily be fatal for that person.
Overall, this article was extremely interesting and informative about the problems and solutions today in cancer research.

For more information, here is the link to the actual article:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lung Cancer

The Cell Cycle. Every living this has it, necessary to grow and simply be alive. The Cell Cycle is a very delicate process, any malfunctions and serious, fatal things could happen to any living organism. Within the cell cycle, there are genes that keep the cell cycle “in check” from not going to fast and producing an unnecessary amount of cells. These genes are called tumor-suppressors and proto-oncogenes. When these are not working or mutated, an excessive amount of cells will occur. If this mass is a mass of mutated cells, the outcome will most likely be cancer. Cancer is a terrible disease that many people have heard of and have dealt with within their families.
Cancer is a broad statement; there are many types of cancer. One of the most common types of cancer is lung cancer. Lung cancer is a carcinoma; cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover the body organs. Lung cancer forms in the tissues of the lung. Lung cancer begins when there is a genetic alteration in your cells, and there is a lack of equilibrium between proto-oncogenes and oncogenes. Oncogenes are a mutated form of proto-oncogenes and make the cell cycle go faster. When the cell cycle goes faster, a mass of genetically mutated cells are produced in the tissue of the lung causing malfunctions in the lung itself.
Lung cancer itself can be broken down into two types, Small Cell Lung Cancer and Non-Small Lung Cancer. These two types are diagnosed based on the size of the cells and how they look under a microscope.
Small Cell Cancer (SCLC) is much more rare than Non-Small Cell, only about 15% of cases are Small Cell. Within SCLC, there are three different types: small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer), mixed small cell/large cell carcinoma and combined small cell carcinoma. Most SCLC cases are oat cell. SCLC is the most aggressive form of lung cancer compared to the other type. It is mainly caused by smoking and starts in the bronchi (breathing tubes) in the center of the chest. This type of lung cancer grows quickly and produces large tumors. Because SCLC grows so quickly, it also metastasizes rapidly to other parts of the body including the brain, liver and bone. Metastasis is when a part of a cancerous tumor breaks off from the original tumor and spreads to another part of the body, spreading the cancer. When you have SCLC, there are many symptoms that come from it, including bloody sputum (spitting up blood), chest pain, coughing, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, weight loss, wheezing, facial swelling, fever, hoarseness or changing voice, difficulty swallowing and weakness. Once the doctor diagnoses SCLC lung cancer, it has most likely spread to other parts of the body, most often the brain.
Because SCLC spreads so quickly, little treatment can seriously help the disease. The treatments used to help SCLC consists of chemotherapy and for extensive SCLC a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment take place. Chemotherapy is using drugs to kill cancer cells and stop new ones from growing and is often used when the cancer has spread. Chemotherapy is also used to help relieve the cancer pain when it has spread to the bones. Radiation therapy is powerful x-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. This treats the cancer and helps relieve symptoms. SCLC is a very deadly form of cancer and only 6% of people with it are still alive after five years of the diagnosis. With treatment, most people can often prolong their life span from six to twelve months. To prevent the risk of lung cancer, simply stop smoking or never start smoking.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC), although less fatal than SCLC is still a very harmful cancer. Between the two types of lung cancer, NSCLC is the most common. Within NSCLC there are three types: Aden-carcinomas, found in the outer area of the lung, Squamous cell carcinomas, usually found in the center of the lung by the bronchus, and large cell carcinomas, which can occur in any part of the lung. The causes of NSCLC consist of environmental factors: smoking, second-hang smoke, high levels of air pollution, poor drinking water and working with asbestos, products using chloride and formaldehyde. Symptoms for NSCLC include: a cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, loss of appetite, losing weight without trying and fatigue.
Non-Small Lung Cancer spreads much slower than Small Lung Cancer, and can be treated with much higher levels of success. Treatment depends on the stage of cancer, but surgery is most often the first line of treatment for patients that has not had the cancer spread beyond the lymph nodes. When having surgery, the surgeon would remove one of the lobes of the lung (lobectomy), a small part of the lung (wedge or segment removal) or an entire lung (pneumonectomy). Although surgery can be a successful treatment, some patients need chemotherapy, laser therapy or photodynamic therapy (using a light to activate a drug in the body which kills cancer cells).
Depending on the stage of NSCLC will determine the expectations there will be on being cured. Stage I and II NSCLC can be cured with surgery, which has a 50% chance of being completely cured. Stage III NSCLC can be cured in some cases and stage IV is almost never cured, and treatment can be used to extend and improve the quality of life.
Lung Cancer is a very serious disease and in 2010 in the United States, there were 222,520 new cases and 157,300 deaths. Lung cancer is just one of the many different types of cancer, a disease that effects so many lives and families annually. Even the smallest preventions should take place; don’t smoke. If we can lower the amount of pollution in the air and lower the amount of smokers, the amount of deaths taking place due to lung cancer will most likely also lower, helping so many families around the world.