Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT) – When you look at the numbers they can be frightening. If you’re a man, your chance of getting cancer is about fifty percent. One in three women will get cancer during her lifetime. But the good news is research has come a long way, and we’ve never been in a better time to battle cancer. Some of that research is going on right here in north Alabama.
Go to HudsonAlpha in Huntsville and you’ll see researchers hard at work to figure out the key to wiping out many different kinds of cancers. A lot of this research exploded because of the human genome project. Some of those advances are in prostate cancer, a cancer that will affect one is six men, one in four if you’re African American.
Richard Myers is the president, director, and faculty investigator of the HudsonAlpha Institute. He says, “It’s exciting that we have developed genetic signatures, biomarkers that have allowed us to predict whether a man’s prostate cancer is going to be aggressive or not.” That means that men who previously would have had surgery to remove their prostate may not have to go that route now.
There’s also cutting edge research going on for breast cancer, which will affect one in eight women.Myers says, “You have women who respond to the new treatments and women who don’t respond. And our research is hoping to figure out why do they respond and why do the others not respond.” He goes on to say, “That immediately gives us a predictive tool, a way to go in and say for these women you give that drug, for these women you try something else.”
But it does take funding to keep this research going.
“Research is expensive,” according to Myers. “It takes a lot of people, a lot of brainpower, a lot of equipment, a lot of infrastructure to do this, and we’re pretty flat on our funding in the United States now. It’s a little discouraging to the young people coming into science because they’re not sure they really will have a career in this.”
Myers says it’s an investment that needs to happen because of the economic benefits down the line. Better research means fewer unnecessary surgeries. It also means using fewer drugs, since the right ones will be used from the beginning of treatment.
Myers says, “I think we have a chance to turn cancer into an annoyance rather than a deadly disease. If we do this research and we really study all of them, and understand what their causes are, we should be able to turn these into things that are manageable.”