2002 Nobel laureate speaks in Bangkok on cancer

www.nationmultimedia.com, 21 March 2009


Progress has been made in combating various types of cancer, but there is still a long way to go, as there is still much more that needs to be known.

So said Prof H Robert Horvitz, the 2002 Nobel laureate in medicine, speaking yesterday at the New International School of Bangkok.

Horvitz, a professor of biology and genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the challenge was great, because cancer was not a single disease, but rather "a large variety of diseases" featuring different biological systems. Breast cancer, for example, involves "a huge multiplicity of disorders" and will require better scientific understanding and medical technology to tackle it.

Horvitz was the speaker in a continuing series called "Bridges: Dialogues towards a Culture of Peace" organised by the Viennabased International Peace Foundation. He said science itself was a team endeavour and reiterated the value of basic research in exploring the unknown to see whether people could learn something new.

Horvitz was awarded the Nobel Prize along with two colleagues for the discovering of "programmed cell death", a process essential for normal development wherein a typical adult human eliminates 1 trillion cells and develops a similar number of new ones each day.
He said the US government should do more to make quality healthcare accessible to its citizens, because access to healthcare was a "fundamental human right".

"The US should be a leader in this area, but it hasn't been. The system as it is is not a good system," Horvitz said.

He also expressed concern about the spread of American fastfood culture and resulting problems with obesity.

"This American problem is spreading worldwide, as well," he said, adding that more education and a change in dietary habits were needed to solve the problem.