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Finding The 'Off' Switch For Cancer

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - We have talked about it before and it may be one of the most interesting ways to look at cancer. Researchers call it the electric switch theory.

In order for cancer to spread widely, one or more so-called switches have to be turned on to allow it to happen. Scientists believe one of the ways we can fight cancer is to develop a kind of dimmer switch to stop a cancer signal from contributing to the development of tumors.

Here is how it works on the biologic level:

Normally cells are programmed to commit suicide if they detect that they're damaged. The cell says, "I shouldn't be alive, something's wrong with me, I'm broken," and it decides to kill itself. But in certain forms of cancer, this doesn't happen.

Put in its simplest form, a flick of a switch could encourage cancer cells to kill themselves and not spread. Researchers are looking for the biological version of the switch to make it happen.

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