Cancer has been a notoriously difficult health issue. Many bacterial and viral infections have been rendered toothless thanks to vaccines. Other medical problems have been taken care of by environmental precautions. Even medical conditions with no cure will often be preventable with the right precautions. But cancer is something else entirely. Stories of people who do everything right and still end up with cancer are common enough to almost be a cliche. There’s certain factors which can decrease the chance of developing any given type of cancer. But this, in and of itself, demonstrates the crux of the issue. Even in the best case scenario it’s often more about balancing risks than it is about any real prevention.
It can almost seem like cancer is an inevitability. In some ways, there’s often truth to it. Anyone who’s had their DNA tested to find out their medical predispositions will have some hint of just how cancer really works. Cancer is in essence a genetic condition. It’s cellular tissue which is simply replicating incorrectly. It’s normal human cells, but which have essentially forgotten how to play well with the rest of the body. It’s a unique combination of genetics and environment. In the end it usually does come down to genetics. Unless there’s a specific environmental trigger, genetics will be the underlying issue for cancer. But for the vast majority of people it’s a mix of genetics and environment to differing degrees.
This is why some recent news from China is so exciting. They’re the first to make use of a gene editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9. This tool can be used to edit out the genetic factors which predispose people to cancer. Cancer is essentially something going wrong with a person’s cells. But the other part of it is natural defences within the person not being able to deal with the malfunctioning cells. The CRISPR-Cas9 can edit a patient’s genes so that they produce cells which can properly respond to cancerous malfunctions.
People should keep in mind that this is still a very new treatment. This is the second time in history that the treatment has actually been used in humans. Initial trials are planned in the US, but are still in the future. But for people with cancer, or who have a history of it in their family tree, this should be fantastic news. It opens up doors for some revolutionary new treatments of a wide variety of different types of cancer.