New research offers new clues for diagnosing cancer from cell tags suggesting that targeted therapy will apply more effectively and efficiently to patients over the age of 60.
American science ombudsmen Paul Gallatin, left, and Steven Polasky continue their 20-year collaboration, this time with a new focus on vaccines for life-threatening cancers in the 70 and up demographic.
Today’s seniors have a complicated relationship with cancer. Even if they may be in the best health, most of them live for decades with high risks of developing cancer themselves.
Despite the challenges, a growing group of doctors are investigating a range of options to improve this experience, while also effectively treating cancer.
Research led by Paul Gallatin, chair of the American Science and Engineering Research Council (ASERC) Aging Committee, and Steven Polasky, member of the ASERC Science Advisory Board, will examine these approaches. From his lab at the University of Michigan, Gallatin, the co-founder of the ASERC Aging Committee, is a world leader in deciphering the mechanisms of the evasive mechanisms that make cancer work in an older population. Polasky, professor of the practice of medicine and biomedical engineering at Harvard Medical School, is well known for his work on health technologies and public policy.
To carry out the new study, the scientists have shifted their lens to cancer therapies for people over the age of 60 who are struggling with the disease. This group has the highest rates of developing secondary cancers, such as lung, or cancer of the pancreas and ovaries.
These older cancer patients have the hardest time because they often don’t have access to advanced treatments, such as chemotherapy, because of the limited time they have left to live. The new focus allows Polasky and Gallatin to focus their research on investigating alternative strategies to treat life-threatening cancers that can only be improved by newer therapies.
Polasky noted in a statement that cancer often moves into life-threatening areas of the body at an advanced stage because the immune system can no longer recognize the tumor’s unique blood-borne cells, which are unique to the cells in the tumor.
Polasky and Gallatin take a different approach to cancer treatment. “We believe cancer cells are only showing up in tissues to receive the protein messages that allow cancer cells to survive and reproduce,” Gallatin said. “Thus, they are immune to being killed by anti-inflammatory drugs, which help defend our bodies against infections. But so far, we haven’t been able to find a way to stop or inhibit those proteins. We believe it could be in part because of the way those proteins work with the immune system, with the immune cells specifically identifying and killing cancer cells.”