Taking on Cancer

Dean Kenneth Polonsky, MD

Dean Kenneth Polonsky, MD

By Kenneth Polonsky, MD

Since passage of the National Cancer Act of 1971, research has improved understanding of this often life-threatening disease, leading to better detection, treatment and supportive care. As a result, there are about 12 million cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, the battle is far from over. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year more than 1.6 million new cancer cases in the United States will be diagnosed and about 580,000 Americans will die from this disease. The sequester-related cutbacks have sliced into research, adding another hurdle to developing and testing innovative cancer therapies — decelerating decades of progress in finding cures.

But these headwinds must not stop our progress. Instead, we need to think more creatively than ever before about making the most of every research dollar to develop treatments and novel approaches to prevention and early detection.

At the University of Chicago, researchers have found inspiration in the complex interplay between the environment and our bodies. Breast cancer specialist Suzanne Conzen, MD, and psychologist Martha McClintock, PhD, developed powerful models to unravel the elusive link between stress and cancer. In response to stress, cellular signaling mediated by a hormone instructs tumor cells to grow in an aggressive form of breast cancer. Disrupting this signal increases the sensitivity of the tumor cells to cancer therapy, holding promise for new breast cancer treatments now under investigation at UChicago.

Read more of my post on cancer here. It also appeared in the Chicago Tribune today.

Kenneth Polonsky, MD, is Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, Dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences and Dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

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