How we can eliminate one of the worlds most deadliest disease(no not corona)!
Look around you. Look at the people in the same room as you while you’re reading this. Now imagine if 1/2 of those people had Cancer.
No need to imagine… This is the world we live in, where every 1/2 people in the world will have cancer.
What’s so mind-blowing to me is not that people have the disease but that even with all of today’s technological advancements, smart people, and money. More people are dying due to cancer than ever. In 2018, 9.6 million people alone died due to this disease.
I started looking into cancer a couple of weeks ago and even though cancer seems like the most frightening thing in the world! I got excited when I started researching cancer. The disease is BAD, but the opportunity, the opportunity to once and for all ELIMINATE cancer is an exciting one.
First, let’s take a look at how cancer works.
There are over A TRILLION cells in your body!
Cancer can start from any one of them and can spread to surrounding tissues to cause tumours.
Let’s think about it this way:
You’re at the grocery store and bought a huge bag of lemons. In that bag there are 100 lemons. But wait, the bag with the lemons has a loose end and is ripped, causing one lemon to fall out.
One lemon has fallen, causing the other lemons to be vulnerable. So, 7 more lemons fall out. That means 8 lemons have fallen out.
Similarly, cancer cells work the same way. If you have one cell that has cancer it causes the whole body to be vulnerable, because now they will start to replicate more and more cells causing it to spread to tissues nearby. When these cells spread it causes tumours.
But how do cells even become cancerous?
When the DNA in a cell has been damaged, lost or copied twice it causes a mutation in the gene. Mutated genes don’t respond properly because the instructions in the DNA gets mixed up. This can cause cells that shouldn’t be dividing to divide and grow out of control which causes cancer.
Mutations happen often. A mutation may be beneficial, harmful, or neutral. This depends on where in the gene the change occurs. Typically, the body corrects most mutations and a single mutation will not cause cancer. For a normal cell to turn into a cancer cell, 6 mutations have to happen as usually, cancer occurs from multiple mutations over a lifetime. That is why cancer occurs more often in older people. They have had more opportunities for mutations to build up.
However having one cancer cell doesn’t mean much, because our immune system will easily fight back and the cell will die.
Mutations happen often. A mutation may be beneficial, harmful, or neutral. This depends where in the gene the change occurs. Typically, the body corrects most mutations and a single mutation will not cause cancer. In order for a normal cell to turn to a cancer cell, 6 mutations have to happen as usually, cancer occurs from multiple mutations over a lifetime. That is why cancer occurs more often in older people. They have had more opportunities for mutations to build up.
How do cancer cells spread?
Think back to your grade 8 science class, where you learned all about cells! Your teacher probably told you about cells dividing.
But how exactly?
Mitosis is how cells divide to make more cells. If you have one cell, mitosis will allow one cell to divide into 2 cells.
Inside the nucleus, there are chromosomes made up of thousands of genes. Genes contain long strings of DNA which are coded messages that tell the cell how to behave and they make sure that cells grow and replicate by copying the DNA.
There are 2 types of cancers; Malignant and Benign. Malignant cancer spreads and replicates cells however Benign does not. Therefore the only cancer that is dangerous and can kill you is Malignant cancers.
All it takes is one cell.
One cancer cell.
That one cell will replicate and invade tissues than through travelling in blood vessels cause tumours, the worst part is that in general, a human cell can go through only 40–60 rounds of division before they lose the capacity to divide, however, cancer cells divide many more times because they express an enzyme called telomerase which reverses the wearing down of chromosome ends that normally happens during each cell division.
This is metastatic cancer.
The difference between cancer cells and normal cells
- Cancer cells are less specialized than normal cells
- Cancer cells ignore all signals that tells the cell to stop dividing (cell death)
- Cancer cells evade the immune system
- The immune systems get rid of infections although some cancer cells hide from the immune system
- Cancer cells convince the immune system to not kill cancer cells
How do we cure Cancer?
So you’re probably wondering “Alisha, so how do we solve cancer, can you just get to the point?”
Well, here we are!!
There are three possible cures (currently) to cancer.
Immunotherapy is a treatment the will stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack cancer.
Why does this even work?
Cancer cells thrive because they can hide from your immune system. Most Immunotherapies boost your immune system to work better against cancer. While certain immunotherapies mark cancer cells so it is easy for the immune system to find them and destroy them.
How does this work?
In our immune system, we have something called “fighter cells” which are T-cells, these cells are used to look for and destroy infections and invaders. Immunotherapy is used to activate the T-cells to fight against cancer cells while also not going overboard and attacking the body’s own, healthy cells. It does this by using checkpoint inhibitors which are drugs that block the body’s control mechanisms.
Some of the types of immunotherapy that enhance the body’s immune response to fight cancer include:
- Cytokines — Proteins made by your body’s cells.
- BCG — An immunotherapy that is used to treat bladder cancer.
2. Genome Therapy
What if we can remove the mutated gene and replace it with healthy genetic material to cure cancer? Or what if we could put extra genetic material in our white blood cells to destroy tumours in hopes to cure cancer?
This is genome therapy.
But how exactly do we replace or input that genetic material in the cell?
Through going on a spy mission!
Scientists have found that scooping DNA out of viruses and putting a treatment gene has the potential of curing cancer.
After you put the gene in the DNA, you would put that in a patient’s body.
The virus will then smuggle in the good genes so when the cell replicates the good gene is copied instead of the cancerous gene.
3. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence
Using artificial intelligence we can analyze the genomes and train a model to identify components that are unique to cancer patients as there are certain components called epitopes that we identify by comparing DNA from tumours to the DNA of healthy tissue.
By looking at the differences we can find the mutations that are critical to forming a vaccine.
Though AI is not the solution it has the potential to help 1/2 around the globe prevent themselves from developing cancer.
What institutions are doing?
The good news is that this is not (fairly) new information, which is why many companies are already working towards curing cancer.
Many hospitals today incorporate immunotherapy and have found very successful results.
As for genome therapy, many scientists are looking into medical trials! And many vaccine biotech companies are leveraging AI to develop vaccines as well.
Cancer is the second most deadliest disease.
A cell becomes cancerous because of Mutations which are errors when a cell replicates. If there are 6 mutations, a cell can become cancerous. If the cancer is malignant it will spread, through invading tissues and travelling in blood vessels.
Immunotherapy — Cancer cells spread because they can hide from your immune system (the Immune system has T-cells that fight viruses and infections). Immunotherapies boost your immune system to work better against cancer.
Genome Therapy — We could simply remove the mutated gene or ****put extra genetic material in our white blood cells to destroy tumours.
Leveraging AI — Developing a machine learning model to analyze genomes to find mutations that are critical to developing a vaccine.
So the next time you hear the word cancer, don’t think about the sad fact of people dying but think of the opportunity, of how you and I can eliminate cancer once and for all!
Thanks for reading! I’m a 14-year-old aspiring unicorn (person who impacts billions)… and I do cool stuff like using Machine Learning to diagnose Mental Health Disorders. You can stay up-to-date with what I do each month by joining my newsletter.