Models for prevention and treatment of cancer: Problems vs promises

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Current estimates from the American Cancer Society and from the International Union Against Cancer indicate that 12 million cases of cancer were diagnosed last year, with 7 million deaths worldwide; these numbers are expected to double by 2030 (27 million cases with 17 million deaths). Despite tremendous technological developments in all areas, and President Richard Nixon's initiative in the 1974 “War against Cancer”, the US cancer incidence is the highest in the world and the cancer death rate has not significantly changed in the last 50 years (193.9 per 100,000 in 1950 vs 193.4 per 100,000 in 2002). Extensive research during the same time, however, has revealed that cancer is a preventable disease that requires major changes in life style; with one third of all cancers assigned to Tobacco, one third to diet, and remaining one third to the environment. Approximately 20 billion dollars are spent annually to find a cure for cancer. We propose that our inability to find a cure to cancer lies in the models used. Whether cell culture or animal studies, no model has yet been found that can reproduce the pathogenesis of the disease in the laboratory. Mono-targeted therapies, till know in most cases, have done a little to make a difference in cancer treatment. Similarly, molecular signatures/predictors of the diagnosis of the disease and response are also lacking. This review discusses the pros and cons of current cancer models based on cancer genetics, cell culture, animal models, cancer biomarkers/signature, cancer stem cells, cancer cell signaling, targeted therapies, therapeutic targets, clinical trials, cancer prevention, personalized medicine, and off-label uses to find a cure for cancer and demonstrates an urgent need for “out of the box” approaches.

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