How Can We Win the War on Cancer?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Lung cancer cell division, SEMIn 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which later became known as the beginning of the “War on Cancer.” Now, 42 years later, are we any closer to winning the war?

To answer this question, we need to explore what cancer is.

Cancer is described as the uncontrolled growth of our own cells. Normally, cells have a designated number of times then can divide and are genetically programmed when to do so. But when certain genes become “broken” via a mutation, which is a change in the DNA blueprints, the cell is free to divide unchecked.

Interestingly, mutations happen all the time in our cells. There are billions of possible mutations in our genome—but there are also billions and billions of cells. So, why is cancer, overall, rare?