All normal cells grow and divide. But cancer cells grow without limit. They divide without stopping. They change and they spread, invading healthy tissues. And all too often, they're lethal.
On World Cancer Day, we have a very simple message: to overpower a disease that thrives on dividing, we must unite around research.
Cancer knows no age, gender or race. It has no boundaries. As cancer's toll grows around the world, it is becoming just as much a threat to global health and development as infectious diseases. According to the World Health Organization more people die from cancer than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined; with the number of new cancer cases expected to rise by 70% over the next two decades.
President Obama's recent announcement of a "moonshot" to end cancer must be geared towards research and the renewed energy is welcome. However, federal funding will never be the sole answer. Testing "out of the box" ideas that might be high risk, may also yield high rewards that advance the field in remarkable ways. And these "risks' are primarily taken on by private dollars. Without organizations that seek to allow investigators to take risks and pursue their brightest ideas, seminal discoveries might not have happened. Nonprofit organizations uniquely have the ability to inspire rallying calls and spur scientific creativity.
Through research we've learned that discoveries made in one type of cancer can inform many other types of cancer. Cancers used to be solely identified by their point of origin in the body, for example, breast, lungs, or skin. Today, we know that tumors are more accurately identified by genetic mutations they share in common, or their "on-switch."
For example, about 20% of breast cancer cases have too much of a protein called HER2 and the first drug to treat HER2 containing breast cancer was approved in 1998. In 2010, the same drug was approved for stomach cancers that express HER2. HER2 overexpression and/or amplification have also been observed in other cancers including colon, bladder, ovarian, endometrial, lung, esophageal, head and neck, and gastric cancers.
We've made great progress, but there is much more to do. Everyone can be a part of the solution. We are all part of the cure. Fund research to save lives. It is that simple. The end of cancer begins with you.