Monday, August 28, 2006

Cell suicide

There's a story out today stating that scientists at the University of Illinois have found a way to make cancer cells "commit suicide" thereby "stopping [cancer] in its tracks." If this research can eventually made into some kind of medical treatment, other than side-effect-filled chemotherapy and radiation therapy, this is great news!

Here's a sample of the news coverage today --
Medical News Today: Making Cancer Cells Commit Suicide
Scientific American: New Compound Causes Cancer Cell Suicide
BBC News: Cancer Cell "Executioner" Found
New Scientist: Reawakened "Executioner" Makes Cancer Self-Destruct
MedIndia: A Synthetic Molecule Instigates Cancer Cells to Self-Harm

I'm probably the only one that finds this curious, but I was very surprised by the "non politically correct" language that was used in describing this news story. If a person committed suicide, would that be in the headline? Would the word "executioner" be used in a headline? Maybe I think about things too much. You're right, I should just get back to work.


Dreaming again said...

ok, maybe I'm overly sensitive, but ... as a family survivor of suicide, I find this shocking ... rude ... terrible ...
like I said, maybe I'm overly sensitive to the subject matter.

ladybug said...

doc, i cant wait to read about this... i dont know how i feel about the terminology, but having taken Anatomy & Physiology I and Microbiology, i am amazed at how barbaric life is at the cellular level, which i think it why the wording didnt phase me. there are all kinds of barbaric things that go on, in infections, and immunology and stuff... man. i wish i could read these articles now!

see ya'll later!

Anonymous said...

im with ladybug.. maybe its cause of the classes i have taken and the wording in the text and having already been exposed to that wording.. i think i blinked the first time i seen it in class.. but now, dosn't faze me.. even the first time i seen it it didn't bother me per say.. i was just stumped as to why those exact choice of words.. now i understand ;)

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jenny said...

I find it interesting to see people having a reaction to the wording in this matter. It is interesting terminology but it doesn't bother me.
I came across this particular phrase a few years back (researching apotosis in spontaneous regeneration cases of cirrhosis) and didn't think anything about it, really. It's a good thing for some cells to commit suicide.
If scar cells in the liver commit suicide the liver can regenerate and a patient will recover and live. Good thing. If you can get cancer cells to commit suicide the patient will recover and live. Good thing.
It is all relative.
I understand sensitivity to the term itself as I have had suicide occur in my own family. But kept in context and to the relativity, it's a blessing. I don't relate these two different things to each other at all, myself.
I do hope they make head way with this research and learn much about the process and possibly some day be able to carry it into cirrhosis and find a way to reverse that terrible disease too. :)

HP said...

I think if you've been exposed to suicide in some way, it's understandable you might find the use of these terms disagreeable. For me, it's all about the context and, in that sense, the terminology doesn't bother me.

Anonymous said...

The wording doesn't bother me. If you have cancer and receive treatment, you want those cells to commit suicide. The chemo is the executioner in those cases. Although understandably non-cancerous cells will also be executed, there is no way to have one without the other.

I think suicide of person is totally different than suicide of cells responsible for causing a deadly disease.

In the name of science, wording and terminology doesn't bother me. The only word that ever did was "Cadaver."

When I was in college and the day came that we got ours, I was freaked by it initially. Not just separating the fact of "this is science, not someones grand-father", but the word cadaver just seems disrespectful to me.

Kind of like the word "Harvest." Now thats a word we could have a discussion on. We "harvest" crops in the field, not human organs.. There should be a better word describing the act of removing such a gift of life.

Sarebear said...

What would be an alternative way of saying the cell kills itself?

Cell self murder? self murder/killing is the definition of suicide, so it is the only word that fits.

Cells kill selves? That makes em sound too anthropomorphic . . . although we don't really say lemmings commit suicide when they go over a cliff . . . or do we?

Suicide doesn't require sentience, does it? Gotta look it up in a dictionary, then. If intentional is in the definition, that means there's intent, and conscious thought. If it just coldly, clinically means "self killing", or to kill self, or to kill the organism being discussed . . .then that's different, maybe. I dunno, I just got all tangled up, there.

See, it's different than a cell just dying, if it can be "programmed" to do itself in. Cell does itself in. That's not as well descriptive as the suicide term.

I dunno.

NeoNurseChic said...


But I laughed a lot harder about the "cell does itself in" descriptor. That's hilarious to me for some reason....

A one time title of any of those things wouldn't have struck me as odd, but when you put them altogether like that and the titles include suicide, executioner and self harm - one begins to wonder about the possible mindframe of the author. (And by author, I mean article author - not you as an author.)

HP said...

Just thought about this again...can you tell it's a slow day?....Neonursechic is right, it's the combined impact of all these terms...maybe using these terms 'sexes up' the findings a little...all that dramatic imagery?

Sarebear said...

I agree. And reading my comment again, and how deadpan and serious I was saying that, I now find it funny too. I can see why you cracked up.

Cell does itself in. Film at '11.

"Cell #45645 decided to spontaneously implode earlier today, while riding light rail to work. Witnesses tell us that there was not much of a fuss, except for one, mourning soul, who said, "he had so much to live for! mitosis, asexual reproduction . . . oh, wait, that last is why he decided he couldn't take it anymore . . . there just wasn't any joy or "feeling" in it. His favorite song had become, "One is the loneliest number . . .", and the only other cell that was interested in him was a flagellum, who was all hands . . . Cell #45645 told said flagella to get a grip, but was startled out of his morning commute by the subsequent pummelling he received from all those appendages . . . . . "

This witness shed a tear as she spoke, and this tear happened to land squarely on Gropey Gertrude, the friendly flagellum, and send her to the afterlife to join Cell #45645."

It's laaaate at night, and I'm in a silly mood; I hope no one took offense at this; I myself struggle with suicidal ideation, but given the lighthearted feel of my Cell does itself in comment, newly seen through NeoNurseChic's sense of humor, I thought I'd embellish a little.

I also probably got the biological words wrong, but it's been a long time since junior high biology.

*Any resemblance to real microbes, living or dead, is purely intentional.

**No actual microbes were involved in the production of this news-story.

ladybug said...

that was a riot!!! having just finished a microbiology class, this was pretty damned funny --- do you mind if i copy/paste and send this to my professor? i am sure he will get a kick out of it?

Dr. A said...

I've said it once and I'll say it again. It's always interesting to see where the comment section ends up at the end of the day...

Sarebear said...

Please do, ladybug! If you were referring to my little story. 8^D

Jenny said...

ROFL!!!!!!! Oh that was awesome! Film at 11. That was just brilliant. I'm wiping tears from my eyes. I needed a good laugh right now. You are great!
Reading the comment about the term "harvest" reminds me of the first time I heard that term used. My son's transplant surgeon told me they had a donor offer and were on their way to the airport to fly out to "harvest" the liver if it was acceptable. I did a double take. You're going to what?....?!!!! Somehow I just hadn't heard that term used up to that point.
For quite a while I called the doctor "Farmer G" instead of "Doctor G" as I had previously been doing. That poor man. He always just gave me a sheepish grin. I'm glad we had such kind, patient doctors who could stand to put up with me. I did notice, however, the doctors were very careful about their use of the term "harvest" around me from then on out. ;)

Sarebear said...

Thanks, Jen!