Canopy Cancer Care on How Cancer Cells Work

Friday 30 July 2021, 11:36PM
By Beckie Wright

Our body has 40 trillion cells, and many of those have a nucleus, which is the control centre for the cell. One of the things our body is doing all the time is copying huge amounts of DNA code, and every time a new cell is made, all that DNA code has to be copied. Cancer happens when there are mistakes in the code that make it through to the next cell. There are 20,000 genes in each cell and it only needs four or five of those genes to mutate into cancer. 

Precision medicine has come about because we now have a much better knowledge and understanding of what a cancer is. What we now realise is there is a lot of variation, and that variation is caused predominantly because of different combinations of the gene mutations (mistakes) that cause that kind of cancer.  

Once we find out what the gene mutations are inside a cancer, sometimes we can match that to a drug. In the past when we would have recommended chemotherapy, now we can use these molecular targeted therapies. These are often better targeted and easier to take and are usually more effective as well.  

Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight the mutations. Immune therapies are a new kind of drug which, instead of trying to smash the cancer cells as chemotherapy does, they use the body’s own system. The good thing about immunotherapy is that the drugs are not very toxic, so are better tolerated by the patient. 

Watch the Canopy TV episode How Cancer Calls Work where Medical Oncologist Dr Ben Lawrence discusses this subject in detail. 

Canopy Cancer Care is a leading private clinic for adult cancer patients, specialising in the care of patients requiring cancer treatment with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, antibody therapy, hormone therapy and more targeted therapies, so with this in mind, please take a moment to find out more about medical oncology and oncology Auckland by going to the website at