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Not true that we all carry cancer cells

Published on: Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Who says we are harbouring cancer cells in our body that can be triggered by risk factors?

No, it is not true that all of us have cancer cells, said Associate Professor Dr Ho Gwo Fuang of University Malaya Medical Centre and University Malaya Specialist Centre, Kuala Lumpur.”That’s a dangerous fallacy. I have clarified this in my book (which is written in Mandarin),” he said when contacted. According to the clinical oncologist/radiotherapist, many laymen and some doctors, among others, have mixed up “damaged cells” with “cancer cells”, adding “This is an easy mistake by non-cancer specialists.”

Assoc Prof Dr Ho also referred to Hanahan and Weinberg’s 2010 Publication : The Hallmarks of Cancer, saying “Only cells that show these 10 characteristics (hallmarks) can be defined as ‘cancer cells’.”One such characteristic is the ability to invade surrounding tissue and metastasise (spreading to other parts of the body by way of the blood or lymphatic vessels).

The findings of the two cancer researchers (Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg) were published in a research and review journal. Their contention is that all cancers share six common traits (hallmarks) that govern the transformation of normal cells to cancer (malignant or tumour) cells.

The hallmarks are : i. Self-sufficiency in growth signals (that is, cancer cells stimulate their own growth). ii. Insensitivity to anti-growth signals (that is, cancer cells resist inhibitory signals that might otherwise stop their growth). iii. Evading apoptosis or regulated cell suicide process (that is, cancer cells resist their programmed cell death). iv. Limitless replicative potential (that is, cancer cells can multiply indefinitely). v. Sustained angiogenesis (that is, cancer cells stimulate the growth of blood vessels to supply nutrients to tumours). vi. Tissue invasion and metastasis (that is, cancer cells invade local tissue and spread to distant sites in the body).

Assoc Prof Dr Ho has been invited to deliver a health talk on “The Truth About Cancer” on April 18 (3.30pm-4.30pm) at the basement of Suria Sabah Shopping Mall in conjunction with Rotary Healthcare Day (which is being organised by the seven Rotary Clubs in Kota Kinabalu (Group 18) led by the Rotary Club of Luyang in collaboration with several government hospitals).

State Health Director, Dr Christina Rundi is expected to launch Rotary Healthcare Day.

Beaufort-born Assoc Prof Dr Ho was trained at Barts and The London NHS Trust and The Royal Marsden NHS Trust in London. On completion of Specialist Training (CCST) in 2007, he joined the Faculty of Medicine at University Malaya. He was the recipient of the Joint Commission International (JCI) Outstanding Young Malaysian Award in 2009 for medical innovation. He is the oncology leader for the Centre for Image Guided and Minimally Intensive Therapy (CIGMIT) stereotactic radiosurgery project at the University, as well as a sub-investigator for UM High Impact Research (HIR) Grant projects.

His research interests involve breast, gastrointestinal and gynaecological cancers. He is involved in many instances of national and international collaborative research work. Being a council member of Malaysian Oncological Society (MOS), he heads the MOS Cancer Healthcare Advocacy Committee (CHAC), championing patients’ rights in Malaysia.

Among the Malaysian doctors who obtained their Master’s degree in Oncology under Assoc Prof Dr Ho’s tutelage were Dr Yu Kong Leong (Head of Oncology Department, Kuching General Hospital), Dr Hafiza (Specialist in National Cancer Institute), Dr Natasha and Dr Ibtisam (Specialists in Hospital Kuala Lumpur), Dr Lee Wei Ching and Dr Cheah Soon Keat (Specialists in Penang General Hospital), Dr Fong Chin Heng (Specialist at Johor Baru General Hospital) and Dr Flora Chong Li Tze (Head of Oncology & Radiotherapy Department, Nuclear Medicine, Radiotherapy & Oncology Centre at Likas Women and Children’s Hospital, Sabah).

“I am very proud of them. They are the stalwarts of Oncology services in the public sector today, across the country. Some others have gone into private practice, nevertheless, they are still serving the country,” Assoc Prof Dr Ho said.Meanwhile, Assistant Governor of Rotary International District 3310, Lu Kim Phin said Rotary Day is an initiative of Rotary International.

“A Rotary Day function was only initiated in the current Rotary Year (July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015), and the man behind this is none other than the current President of Rotary International Gary C.K. Huang (who is based in Taiwan).

“The main purposes are to strengthen Rotary Club’s relationship with the local community and improve Rotary’s image in the eyes of the public,” he said.On why the organisers added the word “Healthcare” to make it Rotary Healthcare Day (instead of the generic “Rotary Day”), Lu said the Rotary Clubs want to emphasise the importance and value of healthcare.

“We would like to do something beneficial to our community with the participation of nine health-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs),” he added.