Cancer is a malignant or uncontrolled growth of undifferentiated cells in the body. It can occur in any species of life that is more complex than a shark. In many respects, cancer cells resemble the most primitive life forms on Earth. They can sometimes exhibit amoeba-like movement. They can create the energy they need to live by glycolysis, which is a more primitive way of deriving energy from sugar that doesn't require oxygen. In fact, cancer cells can exist for days in a cyanide atmosphere totally devoid of oxygen, which may be similar to what our atmosphere was like billions of years ago when life first formed on Earth. Later, we will explain what these characteristics mean and why cancer cells exhibit them.
CANCER CELLS ARE IMMORTAL
As long as they receive nutrients, cancer cells can live and multiply without end. A tumor removed from a woman who died over six decades ago is still living in the laboratory and providing cancer cells for experimentation. (See the "HeLa" cells section in Chapter Six for more information on these cancer cells.)
CANCER CELLS LACK "CONTACT INHIBITION"
Cancer cells don't stop growing when one layer of cells touches another layer like normal cells do. Some cancer cells resemble fetal and neonatal cells in that they divide quickly, and you don't know what kind of cell they are going to be until they begin to differentiate into the specialized cells that make up the arms, the legs, the eyes, the gastrointestinal tract, and so on. Cancer cells, however, do not differentiate. They look unlike normal cells when examined under a microscope. Many cancer cells resemble amorphous masses with claws or tentacles, which is why this disease is named after the crab.
Contrary to popular belief, most cancer cells do not grow faster than normal cells (fetal cells being normal cells). Instead, the reason they appear to do so is because they reproduce at the same rate or slightly slower than normal cells, but they just don't die off like normal cells. Cancer cells can die; in fact, most tumors contain necrotic tissue in their centers as the tumors outgrow the nutrients supplied to them. Cancer cells need fewer nutrients than normal cells to live, but a tumor can sometimes quickly outgrow the network of newly-created blood vessels that supply it. The size of a tumor in the body can double in as little as four days or in as many as 500 days. (The blood cancers—leukemia and lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph glands—reproduce at the fastest rates.) A tumor can actually contain quite a large proportion of normal cells, or as previously mentioned, it can consist mostly of dead tissue in its center surrounded by living and reproducing cancer cells on the outside.
CELLS IN OUR BODY ARE TURNING CANCEROUS EVERY DAY
Normal cells are continually transforming into cancer cells in our bodies all the time, but our immune system, if it is working properly, is able to destroy these cancer cells before they can divide and grow into palpable tumors. The mechanism by which the immune system destroys cancer cells is fascinating.
From the book, Nutrition, Health, and Disease, by Gary Price Todd, M.D. (1985 The Donning Co.), we learn exactly how the body destroys cancer cells:
"…The living lymphocyte… is an astounding cell. In a culture containing cancer cells, the lymphocyte could be seen entering each cell, going directly to the nucleus of the cell and apparently inspecting it. If the cell were a normal cell, the lymphocyte left just as it entered; through the cell wall. Amazingly, the cell wall which had just opened to allow the lymphocyte into the interior of the cell closed without a trace of the opening. If the cell were cancerous, however, an even more astounding thing happened: The normally spherical lymphocyte pulled back from the nucleus of the cancerous cell, assumed the shape of a torpedo, and plunged deep into the depths of the offending cell's nucleus, immediately exploding and disintegrating both the lymphocyte and the cancerous cell! It was something out of Star Wars. You would have to see it to believe it. The phase photography movie clearly demonstrated this many times.
"Very obviously, our bodies have sophisticated mechanisms for destroying cancerous cells, just as we have systems designed to destroy bacteria and viruses. With such a mechanism in daily operation, there must be a need. I believe that we daily produce cancerous cells in the normal routine of repair and reproduction of cells, and the lymphocytes serve to eliminate those cells before they multiply and destroy us.
"That being the case, it would appear that cancer is the result not so much of carcinogenic substances producing cancerous cells, as the failure of normal immune mechanisms to eliminate those cells. True, substances which increase the likelihood of mutation of a dividing cell may serve to overwhelm the immune system, but after a few prudent efforts to eliminate the obvious offenders, we should spend our efforts in looking for ways to enhance our natural immune systems, rather than trying to eliminate from our environment every suspect chemical. If we search hard enough, we will find that the world is full of natural carcinogens…"
As we will see in the next chapter, there are literally thousands of carcinogens.
CANCER CELLS CAN ACT LIKE AMOEBAE
Cancer cells can exhibit amoeboid motion, which means that they can squeeze through the walls of blood vessels like an amoeba and travel to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis.
CANCER CELLS ARE HIGHER IN SODIUM THAN NORMAL CELLS
Our bodies try to maintain a continuous balance between certain elements at all times. One important set of these elements is sodium and potassium. Potassium is important for proper muscle functioning, and is especially critical for the heart muscles. Cancer cells are higher in sodium than normal cells. Vegetables and fruits are high in potassium in their fresh, unprocessed state. (Canned and frozen vegetables are usually much higher in salt than potassium, because salt is added by food processors.)
CANCER CELLS CAN HAVE MULTIPLE DNA
Some cancer cells have multiple nuclei. These cancer cells have too many strands of DNA in their nuclei.
CANCER CELLS GENERATE STEM CELLS AND FETAL PROTEINS
Some cancer cells produce stem cells, which are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to become any type of cell, such as a lung cell, a liver cell, a skin cell, and so on. Other cancer cells generate fetal proteins, which are proteins normally only seen as a fetus develops in the womb (or in vitro).
CANCER CELLS EXHIBIT DRUG RESISTANCE
Cancer cells can develop a tolerance for the drugs that are used to treat them. It then becomes necessary to use a different drug to fight them, or a different combination of drugs. Some bacteria show this same characteristic; they can become tolerant to certain antibiotics and drugs used to control them.
CANCER CELLS CAN EXIST IN LOW OXYGEN ENVIRONMENTS
This characteristic was one of the first clues to us that it might prove beneficial to investigate the origin of life forms during the formative stages of this planet when very little oxygen existed in the atmosphere. In later chapters, we will explain which life forms we mean and how they might have given rise to cancer.
1) Cancer cells are immortal. As long as they are given nutrients and the other necessities of life, they can live forever.
2) Cancer cells lack contact inhibition. They don't stop growing when they touch another cell or the edge of a petri dish.
3) Cancer cells can act like amoebae. They can move through their environment like single-celled creatures.
4) Some cancer cells have multiple DNA.
5) Cancer cells can produce stem cells and fetal proteins.
6) Cancer cells can become resistant to antibiotics and other drugs.
7) Cancer cells can exist in a low-oxygen environment.
8) Cells are turning cancerous in our bodies every day, but our immune systems, if they are working correctly, can destroy them before they turn into large tumors that can spread.
© Copyright 2012. Phil Matsumoto. All rights reserved.
Last updated on 4/13/2012.