Is There a Cure for Cancer?

Despite decades of headlines proclaiming the “cure for cancer,” no magic bullet has been found for this disease. This, in part, reflects the reality that cancer is not one disease, but many. Most cancers arise as a result of chronic exposures, resulting in mutations accumulated over a lifetime of cigarette smoking, high-fat diet, excessive sun exposure and alcohol consumption.

However, some cancers (particularly those found in children) occur spontaneously. These childhood malignancies are sometimes associated with a single genetic abnormality that gives rise to closely related clones of cells, often carrying the identical causative mutation. In these instances, an effective therapy can eradicate the tumor. Thus, childhood cancers are often more curable than cancers that occur in adults. For the average adult cancer, numerous abnormalities contribute to the ultimate carcinogenesis. When therapies are applied, they eliminate some – but not all – of the transformed cells. This results in the common experience of clinical improvement followed by subsequent recurrence.

In most adults, each patient’s cancer arises in a unique individual and from a unique combination of causative factors. It is unlikely that any one treatment can address all of the different cancer types that arise in this complex interaction between “seed and soil.” So, when we address the question “Is cancer curable?” the response is a resounding “maybe.”

Patients presenting with their own unique disease need therapy that specifically addresses their cancer biology. The newest classes of drugs that more selectively target changes in cancer cells, may be our best hope. Laboratory platforms that enable us to match patients to treatments (such as the EVA-PCD® platform offered at Rational Therapeutics) offer us a unique opportunity to provide the most effective, least toxic combinations with the hope of cures for the largest number of patients today and in the future.

About Dr. Robert A. Nagourney
Dr. Nagourney received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Boston University and his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, where he was a University Scholar. After a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Irvine, he went on to complete fellowship training in medical oncology at Georgetown University, as well as in hematology at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla. During his fellowship at Georgetown University, Dr. Nagourney confronted aggressive malignancies for which the standard therapies remained mostly ineffective. No matter what he did, all of his patients died. While he found this “standard of care” to be unacceptable, it inspired him to return to the laboratory where he eventually developed “personalized cancer therapy.” In 1986, Dr. Nagourney, along with colleague Larry Weisenthal, MD, PhD, received a Phase I grant from a federally funded program and launched Oncotech, Inc. They began conducting experiments to prove that human tumors resistant to chemotherapeutics could be re-sensitized by pre-incubation with calcium channel blockers, glutathione depletors and protein kinase C inhibitors. The original research was a success. Oncotech grew with financial backing from investors who ultimately changed the direction of the company’s research. The changes proved untenable to Dr. Nagourney and in 1991, he left the company he co-founded. He then returned to the laboratory, and developed the Ex-vivo Analysis - Programmed Cell Death ® (EVA-PCD) test to identify the treatments that would induce programmed cell death, or “apoptosis.” He soon took a position as Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the Cancer Institute of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. His primary research project during this time was chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He remained in this position until the basic research program funding was cut, at which time he founded Rational Therapeutics in 1995. It is here where the EVA-PCD test is used to identity the drug, combinations of drugs or targeted therapies that will kill a patient's tumor - thus providing patients with truly personalized cancer treatment plans. With the desire to change how cancer care is delivered, he became Medical Director of the Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial in 2003. In 2008, he returned to Rational Therapeutics full time to rededicate his time and expertise to expand the research opportunities available through the laboratory. He is a frequently invited lecturer for numerous professional organizations and universities, and has served as a reviewer and on the editorial boards of several journals including Clinical Cancer Research, British Journal of Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Cancer Research and the Journal of Medicinal Food.

One Response to Is There a Cure for Cancer?

  1. guesswhatiknow says:

    Yes.

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