Millions of people die due to cancer every year. Those who live have to endure heavy treatment that affect their lives and families negatively. After being lucky enough to overcome the disease, they are usually in a very bad place physically, mentally, and financially. But let’s take a look at how scientists suggest we fight this battle.
No, there is no cure yet. Hence, our best shot is to detect the disease at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a cancer gene which makes the detection before an outbreak impossible. However, the reason for the malfunction of cells can be found in their DNA. Some genes, either handed down from the family tree or altered spontaneously due to mutations, are default and therefore can cause serious changes in cell behavior. It starts out with only one abnormal cell, which then divides and passes on the default to the next cell, which divides again, and so on. This process is mostly rather slow, resulting in an army of cancer cells that may go unnoticed until it is too late.
But why is it so difficult to spot at an early stage? Firstly, the delay in detection occurs because the apparent symptoms do not manifest until most of the damage is done, and secondly, because the available screening systems are costly, invasive and take a long time to evaluate.
Joshua Smith, an electrical engineer and member of IBM Research, works with a team on the development of a new, fast and easy way to detect cancer when it first emerges. Not only is it his dream to change the statistics, but also to change the lives of potential cancer patients by making the detection system accessible for everyone, even at home.
If you want to know more about what Dr. Smith is doing, just watch his TED talk and get inspired!