Friday, September 5, 2008

So cancer in complex

http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080904/full/455148a.html
This was posted in Nature today and there was also a piece in the Wall Street Journal on the topic, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122058186705402585.html?mod=googlenews_wsj . I am curious why this is a surprise to anyone. That it is tells me that our penchant for scientific reductionism is more extreme than I imagined. We know very few diseases are caused by single gene aberrations so why should cancer be any different? Biology is always complex and full of errors, compensations and balancing acts. The big question for me with cancer is whether a given cell is destined to avoid the normal check and balances that keep its growth in check, or whether the environment can 'turn' a cell no matter how well protected it is with compensatory mechanisms. We know that both scenarios exist for cancer, but which one happens when is the question to address. It's a bit like the nature-nurture argument that continues to rage in psychology and sociology circles. Is there a predisposition to going crazy or, under the right circumstances, could it happen to anyone?
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