From 52 Insights:
So it’s 2018, and we’re at a pivotal point in the world of cancer. A breakthrough has been made, is this the revolution we’ve all been waiting for. Is the cut and burn era over?
You have to be so careful with this question because the idea of raising false hope is cruel. We’ve seen this time and time again, where there have been breakthroughs but it becomes one of the most shopworn headlines out there. The short answer is yes, this is the breakthrough. This is a penicillin moment for this disease, which is to say we have fundamentally changed our understanding of the disease and of ourselves and how our immune system interacts or has forever failed to interact with cancer.
We understand that cancer takes advantage of the safety mechanism built into our immune system. Cancer uses a secret handshake to shut down the immune system and to say “I’m cool, I’m a normal body cell don’t attack me.” We count on these secret handshakes or checkpoints for the body not to be attacking ourselves all the time, to not be in a constant state of autoimmunity. The most dangerous thing in our bodies usually is our defences, and that has evolved over 500 million years, and they’re really good. And when they go wrong, it’s terrible.
The safety built into them are necessary. We now know cancer takes advantage of those safety checks and now we know we can block that. That understanding has been sought after for well over one hundred and fifty years. It’s something that puzzled humanity forever. And it was only understood recently.