Scientists have been racking their brains for more than a hundred years trying to solve the cancer problem. One theory replaced another; some hypotheses became axioms, while others were vanished into the scientific archives. Those few scientists who dared to develop a theory on cancer had to deal either with very harsh criticism in return or nothing at all. Oncology came to conclusion that there could be no joint theory on cancer developed at all by the end of the 20th century, and the reason why was very simple: there was no joint or universal grounds for that disease.
Nevertheless, Andrey Luchnik, Doctor of Biology, took risks to develop his hypothesis, offering a new way to struggle with one of the most horrible disease of our times.
“I think that the universal mechanism of cancer is amazingly simple. This idea occurred to me twenty years ago, but I did not give it the shape of an article, as it seemed so obvious that I thought there had been tons of such articles already written. Time was passed, and I decided to publish an article in the magazine Ontogeny, which is issued by our university.” Luchnik’s theory is based on the peculiar similarity of cancer cells: the chromosome instability (fragility). Andrey Luchnik’s father, Nikolay Luchnik, studied this phenomenon at the beginning of the 1970s.
If you cut your finger, the healing process starts immediately. The first stage is fibrillation on the surface of the wound. Blood cells and dead cells take part in the process on the surface of the wound, secreting special proteins-cytokinins, which regulate the process. They cause new cells to grow, and those new cells fill the wound in. Cells “call for help” when they are dying, and other cells “hear” the call and rush to heal the wound.
Necrosis is not the only way for living cells to die. Most often, they die in the process of apoptosis, programmed death, the discovery of which was awarded a Nobel Prize. Apoptosis is like technical servicing: an organism substitutes old cells, testing the state of its systems or organs. It is considered that the first stage of transformation of a common cell into a malignant cell has been studied well: it is started by special genes, which are called oncogenes. But then, the transformed cells start the uncontrolled process of multiplication. A chromosome breakup takes place in every new generation, which causes their death.
The fact of frequent chromosome breaks in cancer cells is well known. A common cell (in which chromosomes suffered from radiation treatment, for example) is capable of repairing them very quickly, but a cancer cell usually repairs only a part of what was damaged.
Andrey Luchnik believes that a chromosome’s ability to repair itself is connected with the fact that there are two identical DNA spirals in it. The suggestion regarding DNA duplicates was set forth back in 1960s, and was then proved. Scientists discovered several DNA duplicates in the cells of several legumes and 1024 such duplicates in fruit-fly’s cells. Scientists decided that there was only one DNA molecule in everything else. They did not even take an interest in finding out if there could be two molecules, as the technical means of that time did not allow it. Andrey Luchnik says that he proved his research with experiments. So why does a human being need a double of his or her genetic material?
“A copy of DNA increases the reliability of the genome by more than a 100 thousand times. First and foremost, it is needed for repairing a broken molecule. In this case, the needed information is simply copied from one DNA spiral onto the othe, retrieving the damage.”
The scientist published this theory in a foreign magazine on theoretical biology in 1982. The experimental report was published in 1995. There are other scientists who support this theory, although it is still considered to be rather questionable.
“Incidental DNA breaks occur every day, because the total length of this molecule in each human cell is almost 1.5 meters. There are many factors that may cause a break, such as chemical substances or stresses. The DNA molecule basically repairs itself, because there is always the other one nearby. If there is a single-duplicate part in a chromosome, then the break cannot be repaired, and a cell becomes malignant if there are several such parts.”
Pursuant to Luchnik's hypothesis, if such cells start multiplying, there is a high probability that their chromosomes break and they die of necrosis. If the share of such cells is considerable (about ten percent), then the organism will perceive a tumor as a wound, which has to be treated, so cancer cells receive an impulse for multiplication. However, if the number of such “dead” cells in a real wound decrease with every multiplication cycle, then cancer cells multiply and the tumor grows, gradually killing the whole organism.
Andrey Luchnik’s hypothesis opens new opportunities for searching for new methods of treatment: damaged cells could be destroyed in a targeted way with the use of special substances. The hypothesis also explains why traditional therapy is successful sometimes: both radiation treatment, medicines, and other methods that are used in oncology cause breaks in one-duplicate parts of cancer cells’ chromosomes, which eventually results in their death. Of course, any theory can be considered as confirmed only when it is proven in practice. However, fighting cancer is a huge task, and any new approach deserves our attention.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969