DNA Day experts answer your questions about cancer treatments

Above: Image © Public Domain

Is it possible that when a person diagnosed with cancer goes into chemo therapy, that the radiation could somehow go wrong and actually make the cancer progress faster?

Very unlikely that radiation would make any cell, tumor or otherwise, progress faster in terms of cell division. There are two possible 'worst-case' scenarios, however, from radiation treatment. The first is that the patient will over-respond to radiation and experience severe morbidity or even mortality. These people have undiagnosed radiation sensitivity. The other bad scenario is that following the initial radiation treatment, tumor cells intrinsically resistant to therapy will be selected for.

- Answer provided by Dr. Aaron Goodarzi

If cancer cells are a mix of their own and the patient's makeup, does the same treatment for one person's cancer work the same way on the same cancer in someone else?

Everyones cancer is unique to them - as the root of that cancer is that person's own DNA. Therefore many of the best treatments need to be tailored to their own genetic make-up. This is 'personalized medicine' an emerging area.

- Answer provided by Dr. Aaron Goodarzi

Do the same types of cancer in different people respond the same way to treatment?

No two people ever respond in an identical way to any therapy. Two people can have brain cancer, both treated with the same treatment and may respond broadly in the same way, but one might have a recurring tumor and the other might not, or at least not as quick. Again, this boils down to the fact that every tumor in every person is unique to their own DNA and the pattern of mutations they have acquired to give them that tumor. So, my answer is broadly: yes, but specifically, not usually.

- Answer provided by Dr. Aaron Goodarzi


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