Mini Medical School: A 20/20 View of Cancer
Mini Medical School offers a unique perspective into the health sciences at the University of Minnesota. Once a week for six weeks, students – ranging in age from high school students to retirees – with a shared interest in health embark on a journey examining the scientific foundations of health and disease. Presented using common language for ease of understanding complex topics, your guides are internationally renowned University of Minnesota experts who are shaping the way health care is delivered locally and globally.
In addition to learning from our world-renowned faculty in the classroom, students have the opportunity to get supplemental information relevant to the session topic from exhibitors. A 20/20 View of Cancer is designed to give students insight into research centric key cancer concepts and on cancer in Minnesota.
David Largaespada, PhD
Masonic Cancer Center
American Cancer Society Research Professor
Department of Pediatrics
- All cancers have a genetic cause – but that doesn’t (usually) mean the genes you’re born with cause cancer; instead cancer is primarily caused by mutations occurring in rare cells in your body.
- For most people, their cancer risk is more determined by lifestyle choices than who their parents are. But some families do pass along high risk cancer-causing gene mutations from parent to child.
- Cancer cells typically have many, many gene mutations and about 6 or more of these “drive” the abnormal behavior of the cancer cells, while the rest are merely “passengers.”
- It is thought that the genes mutated in a cancer can produce abnormal proteins allowing the immune system to kill off the cancer cells. This is how “immunotherapies” like Keytruda can work for some cases of cancer.
- The specific genes that are mutated in a tumor or leukemia may determine the prognosis of the patient and dictate the best therapy for the physician to choose.
When Good Cells Go Bad
Carol Lange, PhD
Co-Director: Cellular Mechanisms of Cancer Program
Masonic Cancer Center
Director: Molecular, Genetic, and Cellular Targets of Cancer Training Program
Tickle Family Land Grant Chair of Breast Cancer Research
Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology
- All cells communicate or "signal" within and between each other in order to make appropriate cellular "decisions" based on hormonal cues.
- Cancer cells are making inappropriate or abnormal decisions that cause them to grow and spread (into local or distant tissues - metastasize).
- The wiring inside of cancer cells is altered due to corruption (mutations) or misuse (too much or too little) of critical genetic information.
- The abnormal molecules (signaling proteins) in cancer cells that "pass" a signal can be inhibited by cancer therapies (drugs) to kill cancer cells.
- Understanding how cancer cells send inappropriate "signals", and how this differs from normal cells, is essential to finding new and more effective cancer treatments and ultimately, cures.