Research Breakthroughs Fuel Hope in the War on Cancer | WYPR

Research Breakthroughs Fuel Hope in the War on Cancer

Apr 11, 2018

An organoid grown from a mammary stem cell shows researchers how a single critical gene (blue) controls whether a cell turns cancerous.
Credit Photo by Geoffrey Wahl, Christopher Dravis - NCI-Salk Institute

Today, a conversation about new breakthroughs in cancer research.  Nearly 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S every year, and nearly 600,000 of those people die from the disease.  Those who survive often face difficult surgeries, and long rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or costly immunotherapy.    

Cancer is one of the world’s leading killers because it’s usually discovered too late, after tumors have grown and spread to other parts of the body.  If detected early enough, most cancers would be survivable.  But until recently, there have been no reliable early-screening methods for the most aggressive forms of cancer. 

Now, a team of physicians at Johns Hopkins has devised a new kind of blood test that can screen for 8 different kinds of cancer.  Taken together, those eight cancers account for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the United States each year. 

That team is led by one of Tom's guests today, Dr. Bert Vogelstein.   He is the Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at The Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center here in Baltimore.  He’s a pioneer in the field of cancer genomics.  His research papers have reportedly been cited more often than those of any other scientist, in any discipline.

And joining us on the line from the studios of Kaiser Health News in Washington is Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal.  She’s a former emergency room physician. She spent 22 years covering health issues for the New York Times.  She was appointed the editor and chief of Kaiser Health News in 2016.  She’s also the author of American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, which was published exactly one year ago today.  (Dr. Rosenthal spoke with Tom Hall about her book and the issues it explores on the Aug. 9, 2017 Midday. She  was interviewed earlier in the year by Terri Gross on WHYY's Fresh Air. )

Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, Kaiser Health News, and Dr. Bert Vogelstein, lead researcher at Johns Hopkins' Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Credit photos courtesy KHN, Kimmel Cancer Center

Drs. Vogelstein and Rosenthal will be co-panelists again at the Maryland Science Center starting at 7pm on Tuesday, April 24th, in a talk entitled Truths, Myths and Breakthroughs in Medical and Cancer Research, part of this year’s Great Talk series.  Follow the link for program and ticket information.