Cancer is destructive and a challenge to contain, much less eradicate. It’s a malevolent disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the body. Although there are more than 100 types of cancer, they all start because of these abnormal cells that grow out of control.
Normal cells in the body follow a cycle of growing, dividing and dying in a routine way, with most cells only dividing to replace worn-out cells or repair injuries. The problems begin when certain cells start to grow out of control.
This is how cancer starts. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow, forming new abnormal cells, as well as invading other tissue. This happens due to changes in a cell’s DNA. In normal cells, when DNA is damaged the cell either repairs the damage or dies. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired, and the cell does not die. Instead, cancer cells go on to make new cells the body doesn’t need, which have the same damaged DNA as the first cell.
Since DNA is in every cell, with the responsibility for directing all its actions, researchers are increasingly focusing on targeting cancer at cellular and molecular levels, as well as continuing to improve upon conventional treatments.
Approaches currently at the forefront of innovation are being actively investigated at the University of Houston — chemotherapy, immunotherapy and microRNA. Three researchers in the role of warriors fighting this deadly adversary are Rathindra Bose, Shaun Xiaoliu Zhang and Preethi Gunaratne.