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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Visualizing Cancer, and ASCO 2013

(Image of a lung cancer cell. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.)

"Seeing is believing" is a phrase learned in youth. It’s a phrase sometimes forgotten by word-driven lawyers. But for those who work in disease litigation and/or with clients that manufacture products, it’s a phrase we need to remember. Thanks to new science, an opportunity to see and believe arises each year when the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meets in Chicago in late May – early June.

New science tools on display at cancer meetings are truly stunning, and cover a range of uses. Multiple groups are, for example, visualizing prostate cancer. Others are visualizing malignant cells that are "hidden" from chemotherapy. These processes include producing single images of the sort shown above. Now, however, the visualizing is moving into continuous monitoring at the single cell level, due to massive computing power, among other things. For example, I watched a presentation showing a week of constant visual surveillance of about 10 individual cells as they grew and divided. Visualizing cancer’s development is the current point for treating physicians who want to know and see the diseases killing their patients. The step makes sense because knowing the enemy well is part of The Art of War.

But, researchers and others are looking further ahead. Plainly, a next application will be monitoring cells visually as they are "dosed" with a "toxin." And, that process can and will be linked to monitoring the cells in terms of chemical and "omic" changes as they are dosed. The "omics" data also can be visualized.

Much change is ahead. Lawyers and their clients can anticipate and be part of the change, or just wait for surprises. The latter, however, seems illogical since corporate America largely dislikes surprises.


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