Over the last 20 years, the world has poured billions of dollars and hours into cancer research, plumbing the depths of our DNA in search of a cure. We’ve discovered causes, treatments and ways to diagnose and detect the disease, yet as of right now, the cure remains a mystery, hidden somewhere, many scientists say, in the complex workings of our nuclear DNA. Some experts, however, disagree. Some believe that the key to abolishing cancer lies in the much less studied mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Some believe so wholeheartedly that it lies in the mtDNA, they are willing to stake their reputations and livelihood on it. The founders of Thunder Bay’s Genesis Genomics Inc. did just that, and are producing some staggering results. This begs the question: have we been looking in the wrong place?
How cancer works
Cancer starts with mutation in a single cell, usually the result of some environmental factor. According to Genesis, only between one and five per cent of cancer is inherited. Cells aren’t with us our entire lives. Just like skin cells die and migrate out of the body every month or so, so do all other cells in the body. When a cancerous mutation occurs within a cell, that cell will not follow its regular life cycle. It will not perform its function and be discarded, but will persist and multiply, eventually forming a tumour. As a tumour grows, it becomes parasitic, tapping into bodily resources around it to meet its ever-increasing need for nourishment. A tumour will attract blood vessels, essentially entrenching itself within the body like an organ. Like the cells of any other organ in the body, cancer cells can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The difference is, where other cells would die, cancer cells do not. Because of this, it is not rare for a patient with a specific cancer to develop tumours elsewhere in the body, complicating treatment.
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