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How I explain my job to my kids: Dragons Are Everywhere

June 23, 2011

Cancer is a modern day dragon, fully grown to the size of large buildings, complete with flames and magic. Freeing the world of dragons is no easy feat, even with swords, magic spells or weapons. Bombs might work, but they could harm others.

If we search for the young dragons, they can be destroyed more easily. The most ideal solution is to simply catch the dragon eggs, where a single action can stop it from hatching.

While large dragons are easy to find but hard to kill, young dragons can hide extremely well and eggs, well they can hide almost anywhere. Focusing on hunting dragon eggs is the trick and finding the ones that might hatch into dragons. To do this, we have to find as many eggs as possible, ultimately all of them, and accurately identify the potential dragons eggs to destroy.

How can we do this? Well, we know where dragons like to live and lay eggs most of the time, so we can focus on those areas. But because there are so many places to search, we now need to find a way to search as quickly as possible without harming the environment either. When we do this, we can slay the cancer dragon.

For most this may read as a fairy tale metaphor, but some of the most effective cancer treatment strategies work this way. A good example is cervical cancer screening where early detection has reduced cervical cancer deaths from seven to less than two in 100,000, and has reduced the frequency of diagnosis.

This logic of early cancer detection motivates my work to invent, develop, and improve ways to find, recognize and destroy pre-cancerous tissue or very early cancers.  ….when my kids were young, I told them I was a dragon egg hunter!

Thank you for following along,