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."

Photo credit:

NYTimes exposé reveals how Facebook handled scandals

Delay, deny and deflect were the strategies Facebook has used to navigate scandals it's faced in recent years, according to the New York Times.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The exhaustive report is based on interviews with more than 50 people with ties to the company.
  • It outlines how senior executives misled the public and lawmakers in regards to what it had discovered about privacy breaches and Russian interference in U.S. politics.
  • On Thursday, Facebook cut ties with one of the companies, Definers Public Relations, listed in the report.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

Unraveling the mystery behind dogs' floppy ears

Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Nearly all domestic animals share several key traits in addition to friendliness to humans, traits such as floppy ears, a spotted coat, a shorter snout, and so on.
  • Researchers have been puzzled as to why these traits keep showing up in disparate species, even when they aren't being bred for those qualities. This is known as "domestication syndrome."
  • Now, researchers are pointing to a group of a cells called neural crest cells as the key to understanding domestication syndrome.
Keep reading Show less