Lecture Warns of Dangers of Cancer

Christine Gillette

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy are the conventional ways of treating cancer, but GCC biology professor Shelley Thai discussed how anti-angiogenesis is a new way of treating cancer.

On Feb. 22 in the Santa Barbara lecture hall, Thai gave a public lecture that talked about new and conventional ways of treatment for cancer and the factors that cause cancer.
“Angiogenesis is a growth of new blood vessels from a pre-existing vascular network,” Thai said to an audience of more than 80 students and faculty.

Anti-angiogenesis, originally proposed by Dr. J. Folkman in 1980, is a new form of therapy that uses anti-angiogenic drugs to stop tumors from making new blood vessels. Tumors need a blood supply in order to grow.

Thai discussed how age, genetic inheritance, viruses, and chemicals are factors that lead to malignancies and the ways to prevent these factors from causing cancer. The chemical influences rank high on the list.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and 60 percent of those cancer deaths are from tobacco smoke. Chemical factors, or carcinogens, are substances that can cause mutations that lead to cancer; tobacco is an example of a carcinogen. Of course this can be preventable said Thai: all you have to do is stop smoking or don’t hang around people that do smoke.

“Even if you don’t smoke, if you hang around or live with people that do smoke you have a 30 percent higher increase of dying from lung cancer,” Thai said.

Age is another leading factor that causes cancer, but it is a natural human process. As cells get older, they accumulate more mutations, and this is natural because mutations are natural phenomenon that happens to humans over time. Thai stressed that in order for a cell to become cancerous, that one cell has to acquire lots and lots of mutation, not just one mutation or two.

“Age is one thing, nothing we can do about age, not unless you found the fountain of youth,” Thai said jokingly.

As a person grows older, it’s important to eat healthily and exercise regularly to help prevent cancer. By doing this you can decrease your chances of having cancer by 30 percent.

Thai also discussed cancer caused by genetic inheritance and viruses. Genetic inheritance is an unpreventable factor since it would be in the person’s genetic make-up. Thai said that pre-emptive surgery is a step that should be taken if the person is aware of their family’s cancerous history.

Radiation is another cancer-causing factor. Radiation contributes to two percent of cancer deaths and some examples of radiation is UV light and radioactive material, such as X-rays. To prevent this would be to limit the exposure to radiation and to wear sun block while out in the sun.

Diet is a cancer-causing factor that can be prevented. Diet contributes to 30 percent of cancer causing deaths. Obesity, consuming too much red meat and saturated animal fat and excessive alcohol consumption can cause colon, rectal and even prostate cancer. Thai said to prevent this is to try and eat more fruits and vegetables, antioxidants, vitamins and fiber.

Thai ended the lecture with various ways of treatment for cancer. The conventional ways are surgery, which is to have the cancerous tissue and surrounding tissue removed, chemotherapy, a cytotoxic drug that kills cancer cells, and radiotherapy.

“A side effect of chemotherapy is that is affects the normal cells that you have in your body,” Thai added.

Thai received a bachelor’s of science and doctorate from UCLA in molecular cell and developmental biology and has published eight professional articles. Thai has been teaching in the biology department full time at GCC since 2007.