Cancer: the war at 44, Warburg at 90

Has the tide turned?

On Dec. 23, 1971, the National Cancer Act was signed into law, beginning what has been called America’s War on Cancer. Since then, we have developed an understanding of cancer as a cluster of more than 200 diseases characterized by unrestrained growth and spread of abnormal cells locally, regionally or at a distance, with variable aggressiveness. Despite this daunting complexity and heterogeneity, we are in an era of optimism. This ASBMB annual meeting symposium will provide an update on the theater of operation 44 years on in the war. The sessions will focus on four arenas that have significantly  impacted diagnosis, prognosis and treatment strategies.

“You can observe a lot just by watching.”

Where is it? Is treatment necessary? How can we target it? Which therapy will work? The first session will cover novel imaging techniques, reagents and their application to detection, treatment and subsequent surveillance.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

The second session will bring the young and dynamic fields of microRNA and long noncoding RNA into focus in modulating tumor survival, metastasis and crosstalk with other cells in the microenvironment.

“Déjà vu all over again.”

More than 90 years ago, Otto Heinrich Warburg demonstrated that, under normal conditions, tumor cells, unlike normal cells, use aerobic glycolysis for energy metabolism. Modern metabolomics has led to a finer understanding of energy metabolism in tumor cells and of therapeutic targets specific for tumor cells.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

The idea of stimulating the immune system to fight off cancer has been around for more than 120 years. Advances in biologics — antibodies, inhibitors and immune cell stimulation/modulation — suggest that the potential of immunotherapy finally is being realized.
The quotes above are from Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who also said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
Neal FedarkoOrganizer: Neal Fedarko, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine