Michio Kaku And George Johnson Discuss Cancer Research And Renewed Hope For A Cure [Opinion]

Michio Kaku and George Johnson discussed a new understanding of cancer as “a disease of our genes.” New research in the fields of gene therapy and immunotherapy are giving researchers new hope for better treatment, prevention, and, perhaps, an eventual cure.

First, Michio Kaku explained the cause of this disease, saying cancer-causing agents or carcinogens within our environment attack on a genetic level, damaging human genes The immune system fights back at first, but eventually, cancer is able to “become invisible” to the immune system.

Michio Kaku’s guest in the video below is George Johnson, the author of a book titled The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery. George Johnson, a science journalist, was inspired to write The Cancer Chronicles as a response to his wife’s diagnosis with stage four cancer. Fortunately, Johnson’s wife remains a cancer survivor, 10 years after her diagnosis and treatment.

Michio Kaku points out in the video that even in the recent past, the treatment options were limited, and 10 years ago, the prognosis was not optimistic for George Johnson’s wife.

“Back then there was not much in our arsenal. We had surgery. You could cut cancer. Slice it up. You had chemotherapy. You could poison cancer. And you also had radiation. You could zap cancer… But there was no cure.”

George Johnson told Michio Kaku he was still reluctant to use the words “Cancer Cure.”

“There’s really no cure. Cancer is just not something that is often cured, especially in the metastatic stage. You know there are certain cancers in the early stages that you could probably say are cured. But in general, cured means extending life for a longer time.”

Michio Kaku and George Johnson report that treatment has improved little in recent years, despite recent advancements in understanding how cancer works. Michio Kaku explains that while methods have been refined, new innovative treatments based on the latest discoveries take time to develop. Still, cancer incidence rates and death rates have reduced significantly since 2005, according to Business Insider.

George Johnson explains to Michio Kaku that some cancers have shown huge improvements in recovery rates, but many other types of cancer remain stubborn. Additionally, George Johnson says cancer survivors are often left with the possibility their cancer might return. Thus, the word “cure” might be an overstatement.

Michio Kaku and George Johnson mention cancer hot spots or clusters are a strange phenomenon in which some geographic areas have an increase in cancer rates. Often tiny subsections of a county will have a high incidence of a specific type of cancer.

Inside a Cancer research lab
Cancer research by Akimov Igor

Michio Kaku and George Jonson explain the data about hot spots in their interview. While CNN reports that cancer fatalities are down nationwide, by 20 percent, hot spots seem to defy the statistics.

Cancer hot spots, like those spread throughout Kentucky, yield alarming statistics. Six of the 10 worst hot spots for cancer mortality are found in Kentucky, while the four others are in southern states. On the opposite end of this spectrum, six of the 10 least likely spots for cancer are in Colorado. What does this say about cancer causes and treatment in the United States?

Michio Kaku and George Johnson agree that analyzing data for cancer hot spots can be difficult. Still, Business Insider offers clear data, indicating that the sparsely populated regions of the American West have a lower incidence of cancer than the area spanning from Maine to Louisiana.

Deaths from cancer, however, are more common in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, and the Southern States, with the exception of Florida and Texas, according to maps on Business Insider. Why remains a mystery, but economic disadvantage could play a role, according to CNN.

Michio Kaku explained the genome project revealed cancer is the result of mutated genes. A frequent victim is a P-53 gene. This gene is involved in replicating cells.

Cancer Cells Dividing
Cancer Cells Dividing by Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock]

The genetic code in each cell is a blueprint for the replication of that cell, as old cells die and new ones are created within the body. When these genes become mutated, they can cause cancerous cells to replicate instead of healthy ones.

Michio Kaku explains that in gene therapy blood is taken from the body, and T- cells or immune cells are modified. Then the blood is put back into the body for enhanced cancer-fighting T-cells.

Gary Johnson explains to Michio Kaku that while immunotherapy is wildly successful in some patients, the majority of patients do not seem to benefit as much. The challenge now is to understand why immunotherapy works well for some patients and not others.

Of all therapies Michio Kaku and George Johnson discussed, they were most optimistic about early detection tests. With new tests developed in silicon valley, it may be possible to take a urine, blood, or saliva sample, possibly even at home, and detect a few hundred cancer cells — and locate them within the body — while the cancer is small and thus preventing cancer.

Michio Kaku is optimistic about using nanotechnology to fight cancer. It is believed that in the future tiny microscopic robots would be unleashed in the human body to seek out cancer cells and destroy them with cancer-fighting drugs without attacking healthy cells.


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Michio Kaku and George Johnson do not anticipate a panacea for all cancer anytime soon, but over time, cancer death rates are already declining.

[Featured Image by Evan Agostini/AP Images and Jovan Vitanovski/Shutterstock]