Before we continue our perspective on the role that damaged mitochondria may play towards a cancerous state let us go back to 1976. It was during this time that one experiment connected several dots of evidence that created a unified theory of how cancer originated regarding mutations to DNA (remember DNA is the genetic material responsible for duplicating normal cells unless of course alterations or mutations in the gene sequence occurs. ) This theory is called Somatic Mutation Theory of cancer or SMT for short. This promoted the scientific community to launch drugs that would target the abnormal or mutated cancer cells and destroy them. This approach would not only eradicate the cancerous cells, but spare normal healthy cells. This all sounded great except, all theories are limited and SMT was no exception.

In 2006 a project was funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) called the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Most researchers believed that DNA mutations causes cancer, so the goal of the TCGA would be to first identify the entire gene sequence of the cancer cell and then identify the genes that were driving the mutations, that is, the ones that were the bad boys that caused the mutations. Then create drugs that would destroy these bad boys, so that the next cell would be normal, that is, cancer would be halted. So in order for the Somatic Mutation Theory to work, then the gene sequences identified, would have to be orderly and reproducible. This meant, that cancers of one organ such as pancreatic cancer would always have the same gene sequences, with the same bad boy mutation genes from person to person in order to come up with drugs for cures. Sounds phenomenal right!

But what was found was that single or combination of mutations were not only not repeatable but could not be identified as the bad boy mutation, in fact not only were the genes sequences different from person to person with the same type of cancers, but the metastasis, that is when the cancer cells traveled to other parts, their gene sequences were different than the original cancers! Thus the drugs designed with this theory in mind to say the least, were horrific in regards to success rates, in fact according to one source “abysmal”.

According to Travis Christoferson in his book “Tripping over the Truth”, stated in regards to drugs targeting DNA mutations the following;  “more than seven hundred have been developed and only one, GLEEVEC, has made a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer patients. Most targeted drugs might give a cancer patient a few more months. Some offer no survival benefit at all and can cost more than $100,000 for a course of treatment.” But does this drug alter the damaged mutation itself, or alter pathways that are turned on by a damaged metabolism?

 

In Part 5 we will begin the road to damaged mitochondria as a potential cause of damaged metabolism and cancer!