Last week I had the privilege of attending the Annual 2012 American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR) in Chicago through the generosity of the Scientist-Survivor Program. The meeting involved five days of educational sessions, symposia and posters. In the course of the next week or so, I will be discussing some of the prostate cancer research that I saw reported at the meeting.
As opposed to other meetings which are clinically oriented, AACR is more “Bench Science” oriented. Bench Science is basic research, research that under pins the translational research (research that moves into the clinic). However, I did find some interesting translational research which will be shared in the future.
One of the analyses we did at the Scientist-Survivor Program was to identify trends in research. I thought a good beginning of my description of the meeting should include a mention of these trends in cancer research.
1- Cancer is a genetic disease and understanding the genome is vital. Recent developments allow us to map a specific person’s genome as well as their tumor’s genome. Looking at specific mutations and abnormalities will eventually allow us to understand what treatments might be affective and who needs to be treated.
2- Understanding the tumor micro-environment is becoming important if we are to learn to control the development of metastatic disease.
3- There is an extraordinary amount of new research looking at re-purposing old drugs. In prostate cancer Metformin, which is used to treat diabetes, is one such drug that clearly has uses in the treatment of prostate cancer.
4- Many of us, along with researchers have been hung up in the old model of looking only at organ systems. This will not be the wave of the future as we have begun to understand that it is more important to look at pathways. Many of these pathways are common among different cancers and understanding them could prove to be more profitable.
5- Cancer research of the future needs to us the team approach instead of the current model of work being done in isolated labs. Stand Up To Cancer which creates “Dream Teams” for cancer research is the model we need to use.
Starting tomorrow, I will begin to report on some of the prostate cancer specific research I learned about at the meeting.
Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.