I recently saw the video below posted on the Punctuated Equilibrium blog and I decided to share it with the our esteemed readers.
In this TED presentation, scientist Danny Hill explains a fundamental difference between infectious diseases and cancer and why physicians need to change their method of treating both of them in a similar manner. According to Hill, infectious disease is an external attack on one’s body which can be defended against by a wide array of treatments (such as antibiotics). Cancer, on the other hand, is something that occurs naturally in every individual but spins out of control when naturally-occurring protection mechanisms fail. Hill proposes that we begin thinking of cancer as a verb and recognize that while everyone is “cancering” certain individuals have aberrant defense mechanisms which results in “cancer” related symptoms.
While the presentation was intended for a lay audience, seasoned scientists will appreciate Hill’s demonstration of how 2D Gel Electrophoresis can be used to identify differences in protein expression between healthy and diseased individuals. Automated analysis of serum protein is the most efficient way to diagnose patients and is what Hill’s company Applied Proteomics focuses on.
Grrl Scientist commented that she is skeptical that proteomic analysis of blood proteins can be used to track solid tumor progression. However, a quick pubmed search reveals thousands of articles written on tumor biomarkers found in serum, indicating that certain tumors either directly or indirectly secrete biomarkers into the blood which may eventually be used to detect tumor progression.