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Cancer research is basic research into cancer in order to identify causes and develop strategies for prevention, diagnosis, treatments and cure.

Cancer research ranges from epidemiology, molecular bioscience (bench research) to the performance of clinical trials to evaluate and compare applications of the various cancer treatment. These applications include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy, and combined treatment modalities such as chemo-radiotherapy. Starting in the mid-1990s, the emphasis in clinical cancer research shifted towards therapies derived from biotechnology research, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy.

Areas of research

Cause

This type of research involves many different disciplines including genetics, diet, environmental factors (ie chemical carcinogens). In regard to investigation of causes and potential targets for therapy, the route used starts with data obtained from clinical observations, enters basic research, and, once convincing and independently confirmed results are obtained, proceeds with clinical research, involving appropriately designed trials on consenting human subjects, with aim to test safety and efficiency of the therapeutic intervention method.Important part of basic research is characterization of the potential function of mechanisms of carcinogenesis, in regard to the types of genetic and epigenetic changes that are associated with cancer development. The mouse is often used as a mammalian model for manipulation of the function of genes that play a role in tumor formation, while basic aspects of tumor initiation, such as mutagenesis, are assayed on cultures of bacteria and mammalian cells.

Oncogenomics/Genes involved in cancer

The goal of oncogenomics is to identify new oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes that may provide new insights into cancer diagnosis, predicting clinical outcome of cancers, and new targets for cancer therapies. As the Cancer Genome Project stated in a 2004 review article, "a central aim of cancer research has been to identify the mutated genes that are causally implicated in oncogenesis (cancer genes)."The Cancer Genome Atlas project is a related effort investigating the genomic changes associated with cancer.

Several hereditary factors can increase the chance of cancer-causing mutations, including the activation of oncogenes or the inhibition of tumor suppressor genes. The functions of various onco- and tumor suppressor genes can be disrupted at different stages of tumor progression. Mutations in such genes can be used to classify the malignancy of a tumor.

In later stages, tumors can develop a resistance to cancer treatment. The identification of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes is important to understand tumor progression and treatment success. The role of a given gene in cancer progression may vary tremendously, depending on the stage and type of cancer involved.

Genes and protein products that have been identified by at least two independent publications as being involved in cancer are::

ABI1,ABL2,ACSL6,AF1Q,AF5Q31 (also known as MCEF),AKT1,ARNT,ASPSCR1,ATF1,ATIC,BCL10,BFHD,BIRC3,BMPR1A,BTG1,CBFA2T1,CBFA2T3,CBFB,CCND1,CDC2,CDK4,CHIC2,CHN1,COPEB,COX6C,CTNNB1,CYLD,DDB2,DDIT3,DEK,Eif4a,EIF4A2,EPS15,ERCC2,ERCC3,ERCC5,ERG,ETV4,ETV6,EWSR1,EXT1,EXT2,FANCC,FANCG,FGFR1OP,FGFR3,FH,FIP1L1,FUS,GAS7,GATA1,GMPS,GOLGA5,GPC ,GPHN,HIST1H4I,HRAS,HSPCA,IL21R,IIRF4,KRAS2,LASP1,LCP1,LHFP,LMO2,LYL1,MADH4,MEIS1,MLF1,MLH1,MLLT3,MLLT6,MNAT1,MSF,MSH2,MSN,MUTYH,MYC,NCOA4,NF2,NPM1,NRAS,PAX8,PCBD,PDGFB,PHOX2B,PIM1,PLK2,PNUTL1,POU2F1,PPARG,PRCC,PRKACB,PRKAR1A,PTEN,PTPN11,RABEP1,RAD51L1,RAP1GDS1,RARA,RB1,RET,RHOH,RPL22,SBDS,SDHB,SEPTIN6,SET,SH3GL1,SS18L1,SSX1,SSX2,SSX4,STAT3,TAF15,TCF12,TCL1A,TFE3,TFEB,TFG,TFPT,TFRC,TNFRSF6,TP53,TPM3,TPM4,TRIP11,VHL,WAS,WT1,ZNF198,ZNF278,ZNF384,ZNFN1A1

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Treatment

Current topics of cancer treatment research include:

Specific treatment research topics

Dichloroacetate
In January 2007 researchers of the University of Albertamarker reported preliminary results of dichloroacetate (DCA) causing regression in several cancers in vitro, including lung, breast and brain tumors. Since the compound DCA itself cannot be patented it could be an inexpensive alternative to other treatments, depending of course on whether the method of using DCA in the treatment of cancer is patentable. Clinical use of DCA will require further public/private investment for clinical trials. The initial research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Prevention

Vaccines



Other Methods

  • Recent research may indicate a connection between Vitamin D deficiency and cancer.


Issues

Animal Models

Newsweek magazine published an article criticising the use of lab rats on cancer research because even though researchers frequently manage to cure lab mice transplanted with human tumors, few of those achievements are relevant to humanity. Oncologist Paul Bunn, from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer said: "We put a human tumor under the mouse's skin, and that microenvironment doesn't reflect a person's—the blood vessels, inflammatory cells or cells of the immune system". Fran Visco founder of the National Breast Cancer Coalition completed:"We cure cancer in animals all the time, but not in people."

Another problem, according to the magazine, is that human tumors transplanted into lab rats "almost never metastasize", and yet metastatic cancers are responsible for 90% of all cancer deaths. Robert Weinberg of MITmarker recognizes that the inexistence of good animal models limits the rate of progress of cancer research.

Funding

Some methods, like Dichloroacetate, cannot be patented and thus would not garner the investment interest towards research from the pharmaceutical industry.

Distributed computing

One can share computer time for distributed cancer research projects like Help Conquer Cancer. World Community Grid also had a project called Help Defeat Cancer. Other related projects include the Folding@Home and Rosetta@home projects.

Organizations



See also



References

External links




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