People with Cancer
The majority of cancers affect older persons because aging is a high risk factor for this disease. Close to 60% of all newly diagnosed malignant tumors and 71% of all cancer deaths occur in persons in this age group according to the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program data. The number of older persons diagnosed with cancer is expected to increase because of the overall aging of the U.S. population and an unprecedented expansion of the 65 years and older age group. An aging population is also a population more vulnerable to developing cancers caused by a lifetime of exposure to carcinogens such as pollution, radiation, tobacco and harmful sunrays.
Cancer Prevalence by age group:
Cancer incidence rate per age group (both sexes), rate per 100,000 population.
NCI SEER Program Data
Research done and progress so far
Research is needed across the scientific spectrum of cancer control for early detection, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, prognosis and survivorship. Clinical studies and the relationship of aging and cancer research are our main focus. Studies are needed on the assessment of the effectiveness of different prevention and treatment depending on the type of malignancy, the stage of disease, and significant features and characteristics of old age and the aging process. Scientific advances have been made in associating aging and the development of cancer. As we age, the random genetic mutations that can lead to cancer also occur more frequently. And the body’s DNA repair system, which is constantly on the lookout for dangerous changes that may cause a cell to become cancerous—and abort the cell when such mutations are detected—is less effective as we grow older.
Researchers will work with the key goal to study cell lines of individuals at different ages and provide data on the aging-related components of cancer. Metabolomics is the study of a full complement of metabolites (small molecules) that are present in biofluids such as urine, serum, and cerebrospinal fluid. These chemicals, called metabolites because they are a product of the body’s biochemical processes, or metabolism, change with stress, diet, health and disease. That variation in the chemical signatures makes researchers think that they can use metabolomics to establish a more complete picture of wellness and disease. This has exciting possibilities for cancer research.
Future holds promise
It is based on the one inescapable vulnerability that all cancer cells share in common: their absolute need to renew their telomeres which are the long stretches of gibberish DNA that cap their chromosomes (organized structures of DNA and protein that are found in cells). Telomeres fulfill a role that is similar to that of the nibs on the tips of your shoelaces, keeping the DNA from becoming frayed and unraveled. Each time a cell reproduces, the telomeres become a little worn down, and when a cell runs out of telomeres it quickly self-destructs. Because cancer cells reproduce at a furious pace, they quickly reach the ends of their telomeric “ropes,” and need to find a way to exploit the cell’s natural machinery for renewing telomeres to restore normal telomere length, or their growth will come to an end. The thorough elimination of these genes from all of our dividing cells would thus spell the doom of cancer. Research initiatives are being taken in this direction.