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Kevin Dalby, Austin Cancer Expert, Answers the Question: Why Is Cancer So Hard to Treat?​

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Millions of dollars have gone into researching cancer prevention and cures, but even after all of the expense and effort, cancer treatment is still an uphill battle. Unfortunately, cancer is a complex set of diseases that originate from many parts of the body in different forms.

Kevin Dalby, Austin professor, has advanced the research surrounding cancer drug discovery and was recognized by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health, who support his research. Here, Kevin Dalby addresses cancer's complexity by overviewing the disease's definition, treatment advancements and side effects, and the importance of funding ongoing studies.

What exactly is cancer?
In every lifetime, one out of every third person develops cancer, making the disease the most dangerous in developing countries. Cancer is considered an evolving illness. Rather than being a single disease, it is made up of a group of diseases. The cancer cells found in patients go through a multitude of molecular and genetic alterations that shift to make the cancer cells that scientists recognize and study today. The shifts cancer cells undergo tend to increase their aggression and lethality.
How can cancer be treated?
Existing treatments for cancer are successful for some, but they are ineffective for others, resulting in a win for cancer over the lives of many. The treatments available for cancer patients are not sufficient to ensure complete protection from the disease.

So why is cancer so hard to treat?
The answer becomes evident through cancer's complex characteristic evolution as well as its wide range of types. This disease is composed of more than one hundred different kinds of cancers. The cause of cancers also varies, resulting in no single one-stop treatment for all patients. All cancers respond to various therapies in unique ways.

When factoring in the body of a patient- how the body metabolizes medicine and handles treatment, the lifestyle and attitude of the patient, and the different physiology of people- the cure for cancer becomes even more difficult.
There are some aspects, such as the nature of cancer symptoms, that particular types of cancer have that can even make the diagnosis process strenuous. One of the deadliest cancers, oesophageal cancer, is hard to diagnose due to its camouflage during its early stages. This cancer starts as smaller tumors causing little to no symptoms. However, oesophageal cancer can spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, stomach, and liver. In its late stages, oesophageal cancer is considered incurable, and the majority of treatment at that point is primarily centered around alleviating symptoms and elongating life.
Similar to oesophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer detection can be arduous during its early stages. Pancreatic cancer is titled the "silent" disease due to its lack of or non-specific symptoms. Depending on the cancer's location and present stage, the symptoms a patient might experience can vary and even seem uncharacteristic to past cases.
The importance of continuing research to progress cancer treatment is essential for the health of future generations. The journey to find a cure to the complex disease will only enhance with the assistance of further studies and more time, as current advancements prove.