New Metaphors (& Gene Therapy) Will Beat Cancer

In the last 50 years, cancer has proven to be more resilient than we first thought, but inexpensive genome sequencing could allow us to create individualized cancer treatments.

What's the Latest Development?


Steve Jobs paid $60,000 to have his tumor genetically sequenced. Today, a machine can do it for $1,000. This kind of dramatic advance, which has made sequencing more widely available, has shown us that individual genetic therapies can beat certain kinds of cancer. Sequencing identifies which specific genes have mutated, "and once you know what mutations someone has, you can probably figure out which signaling pathways are affected by those mutations, and target those," says David Weinstock, a Harvard Medical School professor.

What's the Big Idea?

Despite the force of medical science's efforts, cancer mortality rates have not dropped in the last 50 years. Has our approach been wrong? David Agus, author of The End of Illness and the head of University of Southern California's Westside Cancer Center, says we need a new metaphor for how we understand the disease. "Agus is a huge proponent of treating cancer less like a disease, and more like a weather system, which can be mapped and hopefully controlled. 'I see it almost going towards things like climate-modeling,' he says."

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'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
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Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
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Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
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