How Do Cancer Cells Survive?

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Imagine you are in a car going at full speed down a road with your foot on the gas and your brakes being unable to work.

That’s how Zachary Schafer explains how cancer works.

Schafer was the key speaker at the ECCE event on Oct. 23 which was about how cancer cells are able to become effectively immortal until detached from the body’s cells.

Primarily the ECCE event was an overview of his work and how much he and his colleagues have research in the past eight years.

The point of the ECCE event was to overview his work, research, and to inform other people about what the Schafer Lab at the University of Notre-Dame is actually doing. 

Their primary goal is to “examine and elucidate the biological mechanisms that permit cancer cell survival in the absence of ECM-attachment” as it is stated in his slide show.

In other words, Schafer dubs his lab as a cancer “death program.” His lab has four initiatives all of which is to understand how cancer cells die and survive throughout the body especially in inflammatory breast cancer.

Schafer admits that his research hasn’t directly led to saving the lives of people however he says that his work does help.

“Our work is informing other people; their work is informing us. It’s sort of this continual progression of knowledge that ultimately leads to a difference.” 

At one point in the event he even joked about how he summarized five years of a lab alumni’s work into just five minutes. Yet it’s the five years of research that Cassandra Buchheit did that would ultimately help continue research at Schafer Lab and also in other research centers that the labs are partnered with.

Although Schafer believes that curing cancer will be a hard feat to accomplish he is optimistic that the future will eventually hold better treatments for cancer patients.

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