Biology 466    Unsolved Problems Fall 2011

In your opinion, which of the following would the best strategy to find cures for cancer?

(Rank in order; Add more strategies to the list)

1) Do more research on differences between cancer cells and normal cells?

2) Invent methods to fix the abnormalities of cancer cells, so that they become more normal again?

3) Invent new treatments that selectively kill cells that have the abnormalities found in cancer cells?

4) Activate apoptosis in cancer cells? (Selectively, or course; but how?)

5) Synthesize chemicals that are small enough to diffuse into cells, which are not harmful themselves, but that over-active kinases convert into poisons (that only kill the cell that they are in)? [As it was hoped cyclophosphamide would do, specifically in liver cells].

6) Make analogs to short peptides, parts of whose amino acid sequences are the same as some peptide made by polio (or some other virus, against which nearly everyone has been vaccinated), that will for some reason only be cleaved in cancer cells, so as to release polio-specific peptides into their cytoplasm, causing t-cells to bind and induce these cells to undergo apoptosis?

7) Discover human genes that are never transcribed in normal cells, but that are transcribed and translated in many or all cancer cells, and make vaccines to immunize people against the proteins coded for by those genes?

[Are there any other possible ways that a vaccine against cancer could work, than # 7 & 6?]

8) Continue improving the anti-growth cancer drugs that we have had for the past 40 years? Trying them in different combinations and amounts?

9) Look for chemicals that will speed up the growth of all cells, normal and cancer, so that the cancer cells will be harmed more by combination with existing anti-cancer drugs?

10) Appropriate and donate more money for cancer research?

11) Continue basic science research, because it will eventually reveal some new ways to kill cancer cells?

12) Leave it to pharmaceutical companies and economic motivation? (As we are now doing.)

13) Strengthen this economic motivation, for example by lengthening the time of patent protection from 17 years to 25 years? Or by widening the range of what kinds of things can be patented?
(For over a century, chemical substances couldn't be patented, and still can't be patented in many countries.)
Phenomena can't be patented, for another example: Do you think laws should be changed about this?

14) Offer very large (multi-billion dollar) prizes to any company that can develop actual cures for cancer, in contrast to treatments that patients need to keep taking, which are inherently much more profitable.
(Of course, that's not why research concentrates on them; that's just a coincidence. Economic incentives don't really influence corporate policies in matters of life and death; just in less important matters!)

15) Offer relatively small (1,000 $) prizes for the invention of entirely new ideas about how to kill cancer cells selectively? [To be effective, what kind of judging and archiving systems would be needed?]

16) Provide economic incentives for the scientists who actually discover new phenomena, instead of to whoever pays a few thousand dollars to patent discoveries they have read about.

17) Trust that the genome project will produce new knowledge, from which it will become self-evident how to cure cancer.

18) Increase the frequency of promising breakthroughs reported in the news (from one or two breakthroughs per week, as now, up to 3 or 4 breakthroughs per day!)?

19) Create more scholarships for students who will obligated to devote 5 or 10 years of their later career specifically to cancer research?

20) Discourage scientists from using cancer research money to do whatever experiments happen to interest them, whether or not these have anything particular to do with cancer?

[Do you think that ever actually happens? 1% of the time? 2%?, 5%?, 10%?, 25%?, 50%?, 90%?, 99%?]




As scientists, our duty is to believe that a cure exists, that we can find, and that it will seem obvious when we find it.


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