Outside the agenda: Fighting cancer and Professor Esener

Outside the agenda: Fighting cancer and Professor Esener

I know the country has a wide and active agenda ranging from child molestation, corruption, lack of effective policies to foreign policy and football; as a newspaper columnist, it is my duty to move within this agenda.  

However, as many people are writing and commenting on this agenda anyway, I want to focus on a different subject, with your permission.

At the beginning of the week, in the conference hall of at Istanbul’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Seed was hosting an important guest: Professor Sadık Esener who has worked many years at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) at the Jacobs School of Engineering. He is currently directing the Center for Early Detection Research, at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Knight Cancer Institute.

Professor Esener is an engineer, not a medical doctor, but he has been working on cancer for some time. In Oregon, he will be heading a laboratory which was granted $1 billion for 10 years. 

Professor Esener is a material scientist and is one of the outstanding researchers in the field of nanotechnology. Both he and his Ph.D. students (some of them from Turkey) have made significant discoveries in the field and have authored several scientific articles.

In the conference on Monday, Sadık Esener drew attention to nanotechnology and developments in this field but the main theme was cancer research. Cancer and nanotechnology came together a relatively short while ago. Nanocages designed tailor-made to enter directly into cancer cells and deliver special drugs to the cancerous tumor (including chemicals expected to kill the cancerous cell) opened the way to this marriage. 

According to Professor Esener, the most effective way, actually, to fight cancer, or more precisely to defeat cancer, or to make it an ordinary chronic disease is early diagnosis. 

We all know the importance of early diagnosis in cancer but with the current diagnostic means, unfortunately cancer is caught when it enters its second stage; as a matter of fact, most of the time that is too late. At the third stage, when cancer spreads to other organs and at the metastases period, or when it further spreads, diagnoses are made. 

Well, is it possible to make a very early diagnosis, or in other words, find cancer while the number of cancerous cells in our body is still a few hundred thousand? This will be researched with Professor Esener’s 10-year grant. Of course, there is a theory and a method suggested for this theoretical possibility. 

Professor Esener and his team are trying to develop a method that would be cheap and easy, based on the increase of the number of DNA cells in the blood after cancer starts in the body. 

Under normal conditions, a certain amount of DNA cells are circulating in our blood but according to a theory, since the cancerous cell multiplies and is nurtured through blood circulation, with the presence of cancer in the body, the amount of DNA in the bloodstream increases a lot. 

So, there will be such a test that it would detect whether or not we have more than the necessary DNA cells in our blood. Then these extra DNAs will be separated from normal DNAs. Then these separated DNAs will be monitored to see which organ of ours they are pointing out for cancer. And, as a result according to that DNA cancerous cell, treatment options will be revealed.

When written like this, it seems like an easy process but it is definitely not. 

Professor Esener who is the deputy chair of the board of trustees of Sabancı University, has always been in contact with Turkey. If Professor Esener and his team can solve this early diagnosis matter in cancer, a very huge step would be taken for the world and for humanity. 

Especially in past years, very important developments have taken place in cancer and treatment fields; moreover, certain types of cancers are turning into chronic diseases that one is able live with for many years.