Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Quest for a Cure


Published:

(page 1 of 6)

Galen Hermesch has been living one day at a time since being diagnosed eight years ago with Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—cancer of the lymphatic system. But through a medical miracle, the 56-year-old has been in remission for a year and a half, more than twice as long as any previous remission.

Before enrolling in a therapeutic vaccine study at the University of California at San Diego, Hermesch had gone through numerous types of treatments, relapsing three times. Now, oncologists at the Rebecca & John Moores UCSD Cancer Center are hoping this breakthrough, a technique for creating a vaccine that harnesses a patient’s own immune system to eradicate cancer cells.

In the centuries-old battle against a terrifying disease, this is but one of many recent developments that have scientists and oncologists—medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of cancer—believing that the war on cancer is winnable. And to an extraordinary degree, the battles are being fought, and won, in San Diego.

Still, doctors here temper their enthusiasm with the caveat that the specific vaccine that has shown success with Hermesch is not a magic bullet for cancer. That’s because it’s patient-specific; it works only for Hermesch. And while this success signals a promising development in cancer treatment —custom, personalized therapy—it also demonstrates what it will take to defeat cancer: an arsenal of bullets and a diverse array of weapons designed to attack the many different forms of the disease on multiple fronts.


A Common Misconception


In 1974, President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, during a time when it was believed a single cure or vaccine could be found to wipe out cancer once and for all, just as smallpox and polio had been eradicated. It remains a common misconception today.

What researchers have learned is that a single cure is not possible. The abnormal, unregulated cell growth that defines cancer is the result of genetic mutations that can occur in any one of hundreds, if not thousands, of genes. Cancer is a disease of many, many faces. Even cancers occurring in the same tissue—breast, lung or prostate, for example—have distinct abnormalities that must be treated by equally distinct drugs or therapies to be truly effective.

“There is no one magic bullet like people thought there would be,” says Dr. Gordon Gill, a professor at UCSD School of Medicine who’s interim director of the UCSD Cancer Center. He and other researchers

say that because of this new understanding of tumors at the molecular level, cancers will soon be classified by their molecular makeup or tumor type rather than by their location in the body, as is done today.

“It was really naive to think that we could declare war on cancer before we knew who the enemy was,” Gill says. “We have to understand each molecular defect that causes cancer, and target that.”
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

67 San Diego Holiday Traditions You Don't Want to Miss

'Tis the season for fa-la-la fun in San Diego

How to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

From holiday tables to festive fireplaces—here's how to deck the halls like a pro

25 Holiday Getaway Ideas for Every Climate

Our favorite travel destinations for escaping the cold—or embracing it
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best of Baja 2016
    46 ways to relax, dine, drink, and play the Mexico way
  2. Stop Killing Restaurants, California
    Raising minimum wage without a tip credit is dumb, dumb, dumb.
  3. Vintage San Diego: How Our City Has Changed Since 1876
    Before bottleneck traffic and the modern housing crisis, San Diego was a swath of undeveloped land, horse-drawn carriages, and dairy farms
  4. FIRST LOOK: Campfire
    Carlsbad gets one hell of a new concept in Campfire from Craft & Commerce vet John Resnick
  5. Why Our Veterans Keep Quiet About Their Service
    From misconceptions about the military to reticent heroism, San Diego veterans share the many reasons they often keep mum about their service
  6. FIRST LOOK: The Grass Skirt
    San Diego's tiki boom continues with this new spot in Pacific Beach
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

“Will You Marry Me”?

Sharon Jenks, CEO of 6 Degrees, on building business relationships
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags