Can Cancer Cure Itself?
Harold Varmus is an American Nobel Prize-winning scientist and the 14th and current Director of the National Cancer Institute, a post he was appointed to by President Barack Obama. He was a co-recipient (along with J. Michael Bishop) of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. He also serves as one of three co-Chairs of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
From 1993 to 1999, he served as Director of the National Institutes of Health. As the NIH director, Varmus was credited with nearly doubling the research agency's budget. From 2000 to 2010, he served as President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Beginning during his tenure as NIH director, Varmus has been a champion of an open access system for scientific papers, arguing that scientists should have control over the dissemination of their research rather than journal editors.
Siddhartha Mukherjee: So we talked a little bit about the cancers arising. Dr. Schwartzentruber, tell me a little bit about do cancers ever go away on their own?
Doug Schwartzentruber: Some cancers do spontaneously regress. Probably some of the best examples are melanoma, a type of skin cancer that is uncommon, but can be very deadly because it can spread to other parts of the body, but we talk about a certain number of these cancers that have spread and we never identify the original melanoma in the first place and that is probably the best example for a spontaneous regression, which probably is mediated by our immune system. We assume that the immune system at least at that time point, was powerful enough to get that melanoma on the skin surface to go away, yet, it had already spread its cancer cells throughout the body and those then grow and the immune system at that time point is not able to handle it.
Lewis Cantley: So I think there are other examples. For example, we mentioned the heart. There actually are cases of rare heart cancers that occur prior to birth. They’re actually picked as defects in heart development and those very often spontaneously go away, so they’re probably driven by growth factors that are present at that time of development of the heart and in combination with mutations in fact, in cases of familial hematoma syndrome, but they almost invariably self resolve. You don’t have to treat them. NF1 is another hematoma syndrome where the same thing can happen in brain cancers, so that is probably maybe the immune system is also involved, but in this case it’s probably the stage of development in the environment at that stage.
Harold Varmus: But your question raises a much broader issue. It is true there are quite a number of very dramatic cases in which cancers seem to have gone away or arrested and regressed. Neuroblastoma for example, sometimes we see these in stage four, very advanced disease, but a bigger question that we really need to understand is why very early cancers sometimes progress and sometimes don’t and as our detection...
Siddhartha Mukherjee: Give us an example of this.
Dr. Harold Varmus: Well for example it’s very likely that early breast lesions that are called introductoral carcinomas called in situ lesions frequently will probably never progress and we need ways to be able to predict which will and which won’t progress. These are very common. Men who develop prostate cancer frequently would never have advanced disease, but they are found to have early stage prostate cancer. That presents an incredible clinical dilemma for people. There are many potential ways to treat it, almost all of them with severe or very significant side effects and we don’t have good ways to predict these. Very recently the Cancer Institute announced the so called low dose helical CT scan. It can pick up early lung cancers and can reduce mortality from lung cancer by about 20%, but a large number of the early lesions that are seen probably never would go on to being lethal cancer and being able to discriminate between those that will cause trouble and those that won’t make a huge difference in cancer therapy.
Siddhartha Mukherjee: And how might one go about discriminating between such lesions without knowing the future as it were in the present moment?
Harold Varmus: Well the simplistic way to think about that is and I'm not sure this is the way it will be worked out, is to be able to take just a few cells from those early lesions and examine them genetically or for other kinds of marks on the DNA that would predict whether or not this is some- this is a lesion which might or an early stage growth that might never be able to progress, but it is also possible that every early tumor of that kind has some probability of expanding and invading and growing to become a medical problem, so getting that right will obviously be crucial because it’s very difficult to say when you’ve diagnosed something that is an early stage tumor that it won’t progress. Take the example of colonoscopy. Many of us undergo colonoscopy. It’s the right thing to do. We find frequent so called adenomas. These are growths that haven’t yet- which cells don’t yet behave in this antisocial invasion fashion, but since it’s benign to take it away we remove the polyps, these early stage growths and we are probably in many cases preventing cancer, but probably not in all cases.
Deborah Schrag: This is enormously challenging from a societal perspective because what Harold is talking about is we have two problems. We have a problem of under diagnosis. We know that far too many patients with curable cancers if they are caught at earlier stage, colon cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, these cancers are still detected late when they are less amenable to curative treatments. That is still a problem in this country even though we have some techniques, not perfect ones, but some techniques to help identify these cancers early, but at the same time as we still have under diagnosis we have this new problem, which is exploding at the same time of over diagnosis. Now when we have an under diagnosis and an over diagnosis, particularly for the same cancer like breast cancer we create enormous confusion on the part of the public. It is tough to get these messages across. Not only the public, physicians, clinicians because we don’t have the techniques that Harold is talking about to figure out this is the one you have to pay attention to and we’ve got to deal with and this one we can let it sit and cancer, just the word cancer is still so terrifying that at the individual level people and physicians feel compelled to act and that is going to be a big challenge for us.
Lewis Cantley: Yeah, I completely agree and I think particularly in the case of prostate cancer this is a huge problem. I think we all agree that we over treat prostate cancer in this country compared to what you see in Europe with similar outcomes and so but I think this is where the human or the Cancer Genome Project or at least better biomarkers for looking at mutations that we already know occur in these diseases I think hopefully within the next few years every single patient who is diagnosed with prostate cancer those biopsies will be characterized and then the patients followed, hopefully watchful waiting and we’ll ultimately get a correlation between what mutational events predict a rather dormant disease as opposed to a very aggressive disease.
Harold Varmus: I think the way to think about this is, is as a probability argument. That is we can make a risk assessment, but I think it’s important people understand that this is not a binary decision. It’s not as though lung cancer is definitely going to cause trouble and one early tumor is never going to cause trouble and that is where people quite understandably have difficulty even though cancer I think is a disorder that is less frightening than it used to be and we have been able to create an environment which we can have a very rational discussion about one’s odds, but since we’re not going to know the answer and there is going to be a certain level of probability here. It’s going to be difficult even if we get this additional information, which is already accumulating.
Lewis Cantley: So what are you happy with, the 1% odds of getting it, that means we’ll take it out or maybe 5% odds and you say no, leave it in. Different people are willing to take different risks.
There are some dramatic cases in which cancers have regressed or gone away on their own, which raises the bigger question of why some early cancers progress and others don’t.
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Humans are particularly prone to shiver when a group does or thinks the same thing at the same time.
A few years ago, I proposed that the feeling of cold in one's spine, while for example watching a film or listening to music, corresponds to an event when our vital need for cognition is satisfied.
Certain colors are globally linked to certain feelings, the study reveals.
- Color psychology is often used in marketing to alter your perception of products and services.
- Various studies and experiments across multiple years have given us more insight into the link between personality and color.
- The results of a new study spanning 6 continents (30 nations) shows universal correlations between colors and emotions around the globe.
The root of color psychology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9e40cf62fa8922fcca6c57e2fcb215b6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OM4fXB23pCQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There is a very likely chance you've even been "fooled" by color marketing in the past, or you've chosen one product over another subconsciously due to colors that were designed to influence your emotions.<br></p><p>Companies that want to be known for being dependable often use blue in their logos, for example (Dell, HP, IBM). Companies that want to be perceived as fun and exciting go for a splash of orange (Fanta, Nickelodeon, even Amazon). Green is associated with natural, peaceful emotions and is often used by companies like Whole Foods and Tropicana. </p><p><strong>Your favorite color says a lot about your personality. </strong></p><p>Various studies and experiments across multiple years (<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49595886_Personality_Traits_and_Colour_Preferences" target="_blank">2010</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jopy.12087" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2014</a>, <a href="http://oaji.net/articles/2015/1170-1448038739.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2015</a>, and more recently in <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824#modern-research-on-color-psychology" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019</a>) have given us more insight into the link between your personality and your favorite color.</p><p>Red, for example, is considered a bold color and is associated with feelings such as excitement, passion, anger, danger, energy, and love. The personality traits of this color might be someone who is bold, a little impulsive, and who loves adventure. </p><p>Orange, on the other hand, is considered representative of creativity, happiness, and freedom. The personality traits of this color can be fun, playful, cheerful, nurturing, and productive. Read more about color psychology and personalities <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/color-personality-psychology?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2" target="_self">here</a>.</p>
Study reveals which colors best suit which emotions around the globe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYzMTk5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODc4OTg5OH0.bY-pu-MFNivdJLDJuBp9TBKrhwuy7hngUa1aIWxQMVw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C93%2C0%2C94&height=700" id="33fff" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1a5d7bb00dac94bd6201616789fb4882" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of color psychology how colors make us feel color emotions" />
Certain colors are globally ties to certain emotions, the study reveals.
Image by agsandrew on Shutterstock<p>In this particular survey, participants were asked to fill out an online questionnaire which involved assigning 20 emotions to 12 different color terms. They were also asked to specify the intensity with which they associated the color term with the emotion.</p><p><strong>Certain colors are globally linked to certain emotions, the study reveals.</strong></p><p>The results of this study showed a few definite correlations between colors and emotions throughout the globe. Red, for example, is the only color that is strongly associated with both negative (anger) and positive (love) feelings. Brown, on the other end of the spectrum, is the color that triggers the fewest emotions globally.<br></p><p>The color white is closely associated with sadness in China, while purple is what is closely associated with sadness in Greece. This can be traced back to the roots of each culture, with white being worn at funerals in China and dark purple being the Greek Orthodox Church's color of mourning. </p><p>Yellow is more associated with joy, specifically in countries that see less sunshine. Meanwhile, its association with joy is weaker in areas that have greater exposure to sunshine. </p><p><a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200910150247.htm" target="_blank">According to Dr. Oberfeld-Twistel</a>, it is difficult to say exactly what the causes for global similarities and differences are. "There is a range of possible influencing factors: language, culture, religion, climate, the history of human development, the human perceptual system."</p>
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause neurological damage in some patients.
- The study examined data of cognitive performance collected from more than 84,000 people, more than 12,000 of whom had likely contracted and recovered from COVID-19.
- Compared to healthy participants, the COVID-19 group performed significantly worse on cognitive tests.
- Mental decline in the worst cases were the equivalent of ageing by 10 years.
The effect size of cognitive deficits varied across three cognitive domains, which were estimated by applying principal component analysis with varimax rotation to the nine test summary scores.
Hampshire et al.<p>Participants who suffered the most severe cases of COVID-19, and had to be put on a respirator, showed cognitive "equivalent to the average 10-year decline in global performance between the ages of 20 to 70." For comparison, the study notes that the difference in cognitive performance between this group and the control "equates to an 8.5-point difference in IQ."<br></p><p>The COVID-19 group scored particularly low on tests measuring semantic problem solving and visual selective attention.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection show particularly pronounced problems in multiple aspects of higher cognitive or 'executive' function, an observation that accords with preliminary reports of executive dysfunction in some patients at hospital discharge," the researchers wrote.</p><p>Considering that all participants had recovered from the disease when they completed the cognitive tests, the results suggest that "COVID-19 infection likely has consequences for cognitive function that persist into the recovery phase," the researchers wrote.</p><p>Still, it's unclear whether these deficits (if indeed caused by COVID-19) are permanent, or how long they may last. But there is evidence suggesting that severe respiratory conditions can cause neurological damage. A <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13054-019-2626-z" target="_blank">2011 study</a>, for example, found that people who'd been hospitalized with acute respiratory distress syndrome can suffer cognitive deficits that persist up to five years after discharge.</p>
The Block Rearrange test [featured in the Great British Intelligence Test] measures spatial problem solving.
Credit: Hampshire et al.<p>It's worth noting the study is limited, mainly because it didn't compare before-and-after cognitive performance of the COVID-19 group. Another possible limitation: People with lower cognitive abilities may be more likely to contract COVID-19 because they're more likely to put themselves in harm's way.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We consider such a relationship plausible; however, it would not explain why the observed deficits varied in scale with respiratory symptom severity," the researchers wrote. "We also note that the large and socioeconomically diverse nature of the cohort enabled us to include many potentially confounding variables in our analysis."</p>
San Diego-area hospitals treat coronavirus patients during COVID-19 pandemic
Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>Only time and further research will tell whether COVID-19 leaves people with lasting cognitive deficits. Scientists are already establishing long-term research projects to answer these questions, such as the <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">COVID-19 Brain Study</a>, which aims to monitor the long-term health of 50,000 participants who have tested positive for the disease.</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>