[...] cancer is our "new normal". The question then will not be if we will encounter this immortal illness in our lives, but when.
The previous quote was something that one of my Lecturers at Uni, Jorge Martins, used to say quite often.
It is important not to be too glib about this idea. Certain cancers are caused largely by preventable exposures to carcinogens or viruses. Lung cancer is directly linked to smoking. Liver cancer has been long associated with inflammation and repair in liver cells caused by hepatitis B and C virus. Cervical cancer is often caused by a sexually transmitted papilloma virus. These cancers do not arise accidentally or "naturally", but are caused by particular behaviours or exposures that can be modified and changed.
But for many other cancers – many types of breast or prostate cancer, for example – there is no identifiable or modifiable risk aside from age itself. These cancers seem to arise not because we have exposed ourselves to a known chemical or behaviour, but because our genes themselves are vulnerable. Our cells divide as we age, and there are errors in copying genes from one division to the next. As mutant genes encrust upon mutant genes in our bodies, our cells are inevitably tugged towards uncontrollable growth – cancer.
This is a excerpt of a text that is published in the guardian. I was made aware of if from a tweet. It is itself a excerpt of the book Emperor of All Maladies By Siddhartha Mukherjee. It will make a good read for everyone that is interested to know about cancer.
I went with a bit of fear of the unknown. The project is to work in the subject of Breast Cancer, Sponsored in part by the Breakthrough.
In preparation for the interview I have looked for the meet the team section in the Breakthrough Charity website because the job offer document did not mention who was the PI.
I have also asked the secretary who was going to interview me: Anthony Howell, Michael Lisanti, Rob Clarke and Goran Landberg.
I have made my background check on all of them and read a couple of papers from each. And I was scared. I was scared because all of them are well reputed scientist with a track record that some of us (scientist) can only dream of.
I had to make a presentation about my work, I decided to take the talk I gave last year at the BSG (no not the Battle Star Galactica meeting). I though I was going to be under pressure, as my work is only a drop compared to the ocean of papers my interviewers have. Plus the fact that I come from intestinal tissue and only briefly related to cancer.
Well I was pleasantly surprised that every thing went smooth. All the questions, the answers. I discovered that the "boss" would be Michael Lisanti, and at some point he even said that with my background I would be the ideal person. You always distrust such remarks, there is no way to tell if this is just to make you fell good or if it is a real assessment. The ideal candidate remark should be because I have a background in oxidative stress, I know epithelial tissue biology, epithelial stem cell, stem cell niches, I know about cancer stem cells, I know about stromal interactions, I have experience with different animal models (*disclaimer* I condone any kind of animal cruelty. Laboratory animals live in normal circumstances a happy life) and I am eager to prove myself.
Anyway I left after a brief talk about the state of science in my country, big institues that are being created now (like the Champalimaud foundation Centre for the Unknown) and the almost mandatory subject of public finances. Well they said that they would call me by the end of the week (liars!).
So I got the call this morning. it was a wake up call (9:06 - my new lucky number) and on the other end was a job offer. An offer that I gladly accepted :)