60-Second Science

Paul Davies: Physics Could Help Fight Cancer

At a science and tech policy discussion, cosmologist Paul Davies talked about being recruited by the National Cancer Institute to study metastasis. Steve Mirsky reports

“Only 10 percent of people die from primary tumors. The real problem is when it spreads around the body. The problem of metastases.” Arizona State University’s Paul Davies, speaking at the Penn Club in New York. I don’t think we need to cure cancer. In fact, I don’t really think of cancer as a disease as much as an alternative form of living matter. We don’t need to cure it, we just need to manage it for long enough that people die of something else.”

The cosmologist was asked to study cancer by the National Cancer Institute. “When cancer cells spread around the body, this is a physics problem. These cells are microscopic bodies being swept along in this raging torrent. They wriggle around, they latch on to surfaces, they drill their way through. This is the sort of language that physicists and engineers can understand. Cancer research is dominated by genetics and biochemistry. That’s why we have the therapies, genetic and chemotherapy, as the main approaches. I think that we can open up a whole new frontier just by thinking about the problem in a totally different way.

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]


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