Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Sunday, July 08, 2012

When I was a kid

There was a young girl I met at church one Sunday. She was a classmate of mine, but she'd been absent a lot and I'd never really gotten to know her. By that Wednesday she was dead, bleeding as a consequence of the leukaemia she'd been fighting with the help of St Jude's Hospital in Memphis. She was my about my age--9 years old.

It was the first time I'd heard of leukaemia, and the very first time it really hit me that little kids get sick and die. It was a profound kind of thing, the sort of thing that hits you in the gut and changes your outlook bit by bit.

These days, thanks to researchers and clinicians at places like St Jude's and others, childhood leukaemia is much more survivable than it was then. But it--or for that matter, any form of cancer--can still be a devastating disease for anyone, child or adult.

So I found this story of interest:

In Treatment for Leukemia, Glimpses of the Future
What is important, medical researchers say, is the genes that drive a cancer, not the tissue or organ — liver or brain, bone marrow, blood or colon — where the cancer originates.

One woman’s breast cancer may have different genetic drivers from another woman’s and, in fact, may have more in common with prostate cancer in a man or another patient’s lung cancer.

Under this new approach, researchers expect that treatment will be tailored to an individual tumor’s mutations, with drugs, eventually, that hit several key aberrant genes at once. The cocktails of medicines would be analogous to H.I.V. treatment, which uses several different drugs at once to strike the virus in a number of critical areas.
In 1976 this would sound like science fiction, up there with the flying cars. Tailoring medicine to your genes? And now it's achieving reality. It amazes me what scientific breakthroughs have come about in my lifetime. It really is exciting to watch. This is a good time to live in, I believe. I don't have utter faith in science, by any means. It's a double-edged sword. But with every discovery we get closer to understanding how things work, and that's great, but also we can apply it to real-life situations make a difference on a smaller, yet equally important scale, or could save greater numbers or whole species.

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