ISB News

The Cancer Paradox

“Paradoxes have been suppressed in cancer research because they challenge paradigms and they’re not good for business,” said Dr. Sui Huang, a cancer researcher and professor at ISB. “But they play a central role in understanding therapy.”

Huang hosted a video Q&A recently where he discussed what he calls the cancer paradox.

“The central paradox in cancer is that treatment often backfires,” he said. Traditional cancer therapies — chemotherapy and radiation — shrink tumors. However, at the same time and despite those beneficial effects, those very same therapies prepare the ground for tumors to recur. “That means cancer therapy can actually promote tumor progression,” he said.

Huang is focused on using the theory of complex systems and applying it to cancer research to better understand the fundamental principles that drive cancer and govern why some cancers respond to therapy while others do not.

Understanding the mechanism of what treatments can backfire will, Huang says, open a new avenue for therapy and treatments. “What we’ve been doing so far is doubling down. We have an ineffective therapy, and then we come up with more powerful ways of killing. It’s one-dimensional linear thinking.”

Instead, he says: “We need to kill the tumor without making it stronger.”

You can watch Huang’s full 18-minute video at the top of this page, or you can watch his answers to individual questions below.

NOTE: If you are watching with no sound, you can enable captions with the “CC” button.

What is the cancer paradox?

Length: 2 minutes, 32 seconds

What are long-held cancer perceptions that should be amended?

Length: 1 minute, 56 seconds

What should someone do if diagnosed with cancer?

Length: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

How does cancer treatment promote perturbation?

Length: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

What is the relationship between inflammation and cancer?

Length: 2 minutes, 24 seconds

How is immunotherapy changing the landscape of cancer treatment?

Length: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

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