Azra Raza at Edge.org:
The Cancer Seed and Soil Hypothesis
One in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the US will get cancer. Five decades after declaring war on the disease, we are still muddling our way rather blindly from the slash-poison-burn (surgery-chemo-radiation) strategies to newer approaches like targeted therapies, nanotechnology, and immunotherapies which benefit only a handful of patients. Among other reasons for the slow progress, a major flaw is the study of cancer cells in isolation, which de-links the seed from its soil.
Stephen Paget was the first to propose in 1889 that “seeds” (cancer cells) preferentially grew in the hospitable “soil” (microenvironment) of select organs. The cross-talk between seed-soil hypothesized by Paget indeed proved to be the case whenever the question was examined (such as in the elegant studies of Hart and Fiddler in the 1980s). Yet, consistent research combining studies of the seed and soil were not pursued, largely because in the excitement generated by the molecular revolution and discovery of oncogenes, the idea of creating animal models of human cancers appeared far more appealing. This led to the entire field of cancer research being hijacked by investigators studying animal models, xenografts and tissue culture cell lines in patently artificial conditions. The result of this de-contextualized approach, which is akin to looking for car keys under the lamppost because of the light instead of where they were lost a mile away, is nothing short of a tragedy for our cancer patients whose pain and suffering some of us witness and try to alleviate on a daily basis.