New Cancer Strategy: Don't Cure It, Manage It

Radiologist takes 'if you can't beat them, join them' approach
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2009 11:22 AM CDT
Some tumor cells almost always survive chemotherapy, and grow into stronger, more resistant strains.   (©euthman)
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(Newser) – The standard care for cancer patients is to kill tumors by blasting them with chemotherapy. Radiologist Roger Gatenby proposes a different approach in Nature: Forget about curing cancer and eliminating the tumors. Just keep them at a manageable size through drugs instead of chemo. "It just makes common sense," he tells Scientific American.

Think about cancer not as an infection in a body but as an "invasive species." Ecologists have learned it's impossible to destroy all the pests, but they can keep them to a "tolerable level," says Gatenby. Aggressive chemo, on the other hand, kills only the weakest cells, leaving the stronger cells with the room and resources to multiply faster.