LIMA — Dr. Michael Caliguiri, chief executive officer at the James Cancer Center, said that it is likely there will be vaccines preventing some forms of cancer 10 years from now.
That was just one of the advancements he spoke about as guest speaker Wednesday at Ohio State University-Lima during the Stardust William Fowler Science Series.
“We hear the stories,” Caliguiri said. “If I asked the audience if they knew someone that died of cancer, you would all likely hold up your hands. However, if I asked you if you knew someone who had cancer and survived, most of you would raise your hand. Three decades ago, that would not have happened. Nobody survived.”
Calguiri compared cancer research to AIDS research in its advancement, with one major difference.
“There has been a lot of research on AIDS, Caliguiri said. “It is everyone coming together to solve a problem. It was big news when Magic Johnson was found to have AIDS. We expected him to die in a few years. He is sill alive. The point is, this is science. It is all solvable. We can do the same thing for cancer.”
Caliguri said the big difference is AIDS can be traced to one virus. He said there are as many as 100,000 different causes for cancer.
“Researchers are working through the causes,” Caliguiri said.
Caliguiri said cancer is caused by oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Proto-oncogenes, which normally help cells grow, sometimes will mutate or the body makes too many copies of it.When this happens, the cell grows out of control, which can lead to cancer. This bad gene is called an oncogene. Tumor suppressor genes are normal genes that slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes, or tell cells when to die. When tumor suppressor genes don’t work properly, cells can grow out of control, which can lead to cancer.
“Even though there are a lot of causes, it is pretty fundamental,” Caliguiri said. “Cancer is a failure to control or normalize just one cell’s growth.
Caliguiri said methods are constantly being worked on to find the many different causes. He said a few years ago, they did research on a certain kind of colon cancer over a three-year period that was hereditary. They were able to identify people who carried the gene by developing a test. As a result, they found hundreds of people carrying the gene and were able to prevent future problems with the disease.
“Together, we can all produce a cancer-free world,” he said.
The Stardust series is an annual event that highlights science in the Lima region in honor of Lima’s William Fowler, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1983 for his efforts to show how all the natural elements in the periodic table are forged under extreme conditions across the course of a star’s lifetime.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.