“I think in the end, to treat cancer, we’re going to be developing a lot of specific silver bullets, but we’ll need to use them in combination,” Meyerson said.
Unfortunately, it may be years before treatment is changed due to the research recently announced. That’s often the way with science: good work on the research frontier may come years before practical applications are developed for real-world difference in things like medical treatment. That’s the case in part because research must run down many avenues simultaneously, some of which will yield fruitful results and some of which simply won’t.
“(Doing) genomic screening, that’s not the end goal,” said Fran Visco of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. “That is simply a tool, a step on the way to figuring out how to save lives.”
According to the American Cancer Society, about 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer. That makes the malignancy second only to lung cancer in terms of deadly effects. Let’s hope the treatments for breast cancer improve at a record-breaking pace.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. Her most recent book is The Whole Story of Climate, just published by Prometheus Books. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.