December 21, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Your Body Constantly Fights Cancer

Sometimes cancer cells take hold, but not for want of constant
surveillance and combat by the immune system.

 

It shouldn’t be surprising that many people get cancer in their lifetime. The puzzle is why we don’t all die from it in the womb.

Over 60? You Have Billions of Potentially Cancer-Causing Cells (HealthDay, 16 Dec 2021). How many cancer cells are trying to get a foothold in your body if you’re over 60? Probably a 100 billion have at least one cancer-associated mutation at any one time, this article says. Younger folk are also at risk.

But there’s good news, too: The vast majority of these mutations won’t do anything and most people (60%) will go their entire lives without a cancer diagnosis, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Q&A: Nearly Every Single Human Gene Can Be Linked to Cancer (The Scientist, 29 Oct 2021). In this article, aging and longevity expert João Pedro de Magalhães answers questions about cancer. He noticed that most genetic studies include some tie-in to cancer risk, and realized that it might be for want of attracting attention and funding.

I would say that, arguably, compared to other processes or other diseases, cancer is more straightforward to study. You can get cell lines to study cancer, for example. So the experimental methods needed to study cancer are not as elaborate as for other diseases. Finding associations with cancer is actually not that complicated. It’s easier than for other diseases. But an association, a correlation, does not mean causation. And it does not mean it’s a good therapeutic target. So a next step would be to find the key drivers of cancer. We know some of them, but not all, and what are some of the promising therapeutic targets.

New Study Reveals How Epithelial Cells in the Body Naturally Eliminate “Precancerous” Ones (Waseda University, 15 Dec 2021). Researchers in this Tokyo university discovered another way the body fights cancer. Epithelial cells (which comprise many tissues) can detect neighboring cells that are acting weird. They can put the squeeze on them, pushing them out of the tissue so that they cannot gain a foothold. One protein the team studied recognizes a precancerous condition and activates a pathway called SHP2-ROCK2 that forces bad cells out.

These epithelial cells can recognize and extrude neighboring precancerous cells from the epithelium; this extrusion process is called cell competition….

This SHP2–ROCK2 pathway leads to the “accumulation of cytoskeletal components,” which generates a mechanical force to extrude precancerous cells, in the normal epithelial cells at the boundary with precancerous cells. Finally, normal epithelial cells push the precancerous cells out of the epithelium to eliminate them from the body.

This comprises “a new immune-like mechanism by non-immune epithelial cells to suppress tumorigenesis” independent of the better-known T-cells and natural killer cells.

Update 12/22/2021: Additional news items on this subject appeared in the news today.

Researchers describe a mechanism that impairs cancer cell proliferation and induces death (Autonomous University of Barcelona). The researchers describe a method by which inhibition of the ERK5 protein kinase pathway induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells, eliminating them without harming healthy cells.

Cancer is a ubiquitous disease of mammals, study concludes (University of Southern Denmark, via Phys.org). This study claims that carnivorous mammals get more cancer than herbivores because of meat in their diet. It also affirms Peto’s Paradox, the puzzle that cancer occurrence is independent of body mass. One would suspect more cancer incidence in bigger mass, but mice and elephants seem to have equivalent levels of cancer incidence. Most important for humans, the scientists are looking at mammals that seem resistant to cancer for clues that can replace painful and ineffective chemo treatments with natural ones that are non-toxic to the host.

Recommended Resource: Howard Glicksman, M.D., produced a series called “On Being Alive” for Access Research Network a few years ago. He has several chapters about the immune system and how it works. Most people have no idea how complex the immune system is, with numerous subsystems working together. Truly it is an irreducibly complex system of a high order!

See also Jonathan Wells’ article, “Does Cancer Disprove Intelligent Design?” at Evolution News, and another article at the site about “Checkpoints and Repair Systems as Evidence for Design.” That article tells about “checkpoints” in the cell that guarantee integrity during cell division. Mutations to the p53 protein in particular are often implicated in cancer, as if the guardian of the genome has been compromised.

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