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How the world got lost on
the road to an anti-aging pill
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May 2, 2013: by Bill Sardi
The anticipation builds for anti-cancer drugs that target a broad array of genes that combat various types of cancer in different organs rather than a different drug for each cancer by their anatomical origin. Instead of anti-cancer drugs for each organ, such as lung, prostate, breast and colon, geneticists now say new drugs in development may address many forms of cancer.
The first examples of this new thinking are studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing uterine cancer and leukemia have similar genetic fingerprints and could be treated by the same drug. A large effort to this end is being commandeered at the Cancer Genome Atlas website.
However, the thinking is far too narrow now that geneticists know diseases are integrated via gene networks. An online map can be viewed showing genes in many diseases overlap one another (note: it takes time to load).
Gone is the idea of using single-gene targeted drugs like Herceptin and Erbitux even though these drugs are still in common use today. Given knowledge that cancer involves many genes, these gene-targeted drugs, which only prolong life by a few months, should be abandoned.
I responded to The New York Times report of this so-called breakthrough by submitting an online comment that asks: why not activate genes that promote health and prevent disease altogether rather than allowing cancer to get started? In other words, why not promote health rather than treat disease?
Genes are not static in nature. Yes, if there is an abnormality in the DNA ladder that is called a gene mutation. Researchers have identified 291 human genes that are mutated in human cancer, though not all of these are involved in a particular type of cancer. Cancer actually causes gene mutations.
But researchers reveal cancer doesn’t just involve inherited or developed structural gene mutations (breaks in the DNA ladder) but also involves the dynamic protein-making capacity many genes, a process called epigenetics. When genes are making proteins this is called gene expression and when they are not this is called gene silencing.
Based on currently available knowledge, what gene-switching pattern is known to promote health and inhibit cancer? That would be a gene pattern produced by calorie restriction, know to approximately double the lifespan and healthspan of animals and inhibit or delay cancer by cutting caloric intake in half.
In laboratory mice it is known that a calorie restricted diet practiced over the animal’s lifetime will significantly alter 831 genes.
The epigenetic effect of a limited calorie diet can be molecularly mimicked by consumption of small molecules that influence a broad array of genes.
A short-term study was conducted in 2008 where biologists compared a limited-calorie, a standard calorie diet plus resveratrol, a small molecule commonly found in red wine that is known for its anti-aging and anti-cancer properties and as a molecular mimic of calorie restriction, and a matrix of small molecules commonly found in red wine that included resveratrol as provided in a commercially available nutriceutical (Longevinex®).
In 12-weeks the calorie restriction diet significantly altered 198 genes and resveratrol 225 genes with overlap of many of these genes, partially confirming resveratrol molecularly mimics a limited calorie diet. However, it would presumably require life-long consumption of resveratrol to molecularly achieve the same effect produced by life-long calorie restriction.
However, the resveratrol-based matrix (Longevinex®) activated 1711 genes and switched 81% of the 831 genes in the same direction as calorie restriction. To date, this is the closest any array of small molecules has come to mirroring the effects of a limited calorie diet, at least in animals.
Why not go to the doctor to get your health pill rather than your disease treatment pill? Why wait for disease to occur and then treat it when it could be prevented altogether? Of course, such a paradigm shift in modern medicine would make cab drivers out of most oncologists. Don’t anticipate any revolutionary change like this to occur in your lifetime. — © 2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.