Cancer Epigenetics: Are we thinking wisely?
Cancer is a devastating disease, and millions of people worldwide are affected by cancer every year. What measures can we take to reduce its destructive power? In the past few decades, billions of dollars in research expenses have been spent on treating cancer in a passive, universal way, trying to stop cancer when it is causing trouble in our body. These methods have proven to be effective in fighting cancer. However, in most cases, this type of treatment is a painful and traumatic experience, and the success rate varies greatly (as low as 1%, as high as 98%) . And whether active treatment is expected to be successfully prevented before cancer and other diseases become a problem? perhaps.
Before the storm, if you are close to the coast, it will be easier to return to the safe haven
The world we live in now knows more about cancer than ever before. In this world, early detection and screening procedures for certain cancers have become basic standards in the medical system, such as the NHS. These methods provide the means to detect and treat cancer early, thereby increasing the chances of successfully intervening in the spread of cancer. However, no matter how positive it feels, this method is still passive. Is it possible to find a proactive method? What?
When a big storm comes, staying in a safe haven is easier than trying to stop the waves
In order to understand how science enables people to truly take a proactive and personalized approach to cancer treatment, we turned our direction to breast cancer, because this is one of the biggest cancer killers in women, even in the field of genetics. Over the years, researchers have discovered many key single-gene mutations or SNPs that can increase the risk of breast cancer. These mutations include the notorious BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
How to deal with BRCA gene mutations?
This knowledge can now be provided to women at risk of breast cancer, regain control, make informed decisions, and take the initiative. In BRCA1 and breast cancer, this is by no means an easy decision. Active treatment is preventive mastectomy, but is this option worth it?
Nothing is as simple as it seems
So, are we moving towards a future where "genes determine everything"? In the future, disease may become a choice. Under understanding, can we have the right to make a choice? Can diseases such as cancer be explained by genetics alone? Although genetics is very important... but the answer is: no.
Facts have proved that in fact, only a small part of cases of breast cancer (or general cancer) can be explained by genetics. As far as breast cancer is concerned, only 10% can be explained by genetics alone, which is quite high compared to most other cancers. For other cancer sites, such as bone cancer, salivary gland cancer, and genital cancer, the proportion drops below a single percentage.
How did cancer develop in the first place? The quick answer to this question is that in most cases, we still don't fully understand how cancer occurs. One of the main reasons for this is the complexity of the process itself, but this is not an absolute negative doom. Scientists are gaining insights on how and why certain cancers occur. It is exciting. This is expected to pave the way for new early diagnosis methods, preventive measures and new treatments in the next few years.
How to define our actions? ...Is the activity of a group of cells
Epigenetics is one of the increasingly important aspects of cancer onset. Epigenetics can be broadly defined as the study of the organization and control of DNA. Why is epigenetics so important to the development and process of cancer? The reason is that one of the earliest stages of the development of many cancers is the imbalance of gene expression. Unregulated gene expression can lead to abnormal cell behavior. The end result is that the development of cancer cells-"rebellious cells" violates the rules that control all other cells in our body.
The relationship between epigenetics and rebellious cells
Now, more and more evidence shows that the formation of rebellious cells (or cancer) is caused by the epigenetic changes in the cells themselves. In other words, changing the way the DNA is controlled in these cells will lead to changes in gene expression and the formation of cancer cells. The fascinating thing is that the link between epigenetics and cancer is so close that even cancer risk can be assessed from epigenetics. For example, recently published studies have shown that specific DNA methylation, overall DNA methylation, and specific tissue protein changes are all related to breast cancer risk. This has led to the development of epigenetic biomarkers for determining cancer risk. Some biomarkers can predict risk years before cancer is diagnosed. For example, DOK7 and BRCA1 promoter DNA methylation have been shown to be testable. Increased risk of breast cancer.
Epigenetic changes, what can we do?
There are many reasons for the changes in the epigenetic composition of cells. This is one of the reasons why the understanding of the onset of cancer is so complicated, but these can be broadly defined as environmental factors. Your environment? Whether it is a mutation in a specific DNA location caused by free radicals or a change in diet, anything that changes the environment may change the epigenome. Obviously, some risk factors (such as free radical-induced mutations) are beyond our control to some extent, but many risk factors are not.
Make good use of your environment
Imagine that you can know how your environment affects your epigenome. Imagine that understanding the impact of your mental health or diet on the epigenome, and expanding to understanding your risk of cancer, you will make positive and well-thought-out choices that will allow you to take control of your future. Not only that, compared with mastectomy, these options will be easier to achieve, and the interference will be greatly reduced. Everything sounds good, but how close are we actually to truly active, personalized cancer interventions?
Has the future of active health care come?
The answer is that for certain environmental factors, the future is already here. For example, the intake of alcohol and folic acid are two cancer risk factors, which are known to be related to changes in the epigenome. Both exercise and low-fat meals have been shown to reduce relapse rates through potential epigenetic mechanisms.
In addition, epigenetic risk factors can also be reduced by ingesting vegetables known to contain anti-cancer compounds. The isothiocyanate found in broccoli and watercress can inhibit the epigenetic protein called HDAC in cancer cells. .
The future is bright!
In the next few years, our understanding of epigenetics and the relationship between environmental factors and cancer will undoubtedly continue to improve. At the same time, the short examples mentioned above will be transformed into a wealth of useful information and personalized insights, so that each of us can ensure that we take active actions to minimize the risk of suffering from this tragic disease.
The mission of Chronomics is to ensure that you understand how the environment affects epigenetic information and how this relates to disease risk. We are expecting that in the future, information-based, active and personalized cancer interventions will become the norm, and passive interventions will become the last resort.