Imprimir Republish


Unhealthy but inevitable coexistence

In the already reasonably long experience of Pesquisa FAPESP, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in early October – to which  one could, of course, add the four years of its infancy as the newsletter Notícias FAPESP, for the sake of completeness – only one cover has focused on cancer studies. Besides being a theme that is hard to deal with visually, news about therapeutic advances is often only limited to certain manifestations of the disease, and lacks weight to justify a major article, while news about any greater scientific understanding of cancer, often filled with new data and increasingly precise statistics about the likelihood of most people developing some form of the disease at some point in their lives, bears a heavy load making it immensely difficult to come up with a cover both sober and attractive.

Thus, the cover feature of this issue, written by special editor Carlos Fioravanti, can be taken as an exception to this rule. It discusses a new point of view about cancer, brought about by recent studies – some of which were carried out in Brazil or with the collaboration of Brazilians – according to which it may be possible to control tumor growth and learn to live with it, rather than looking upon cancer as a death threat that demands immediate extirpation through radical surgery or highly aggressive treatment. This view is based on the analysis of the interaction between the tumor cells and the healthy tissues around it and on a test of several new strategies to halt the progress of malignant cells, in parallel with the traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Two other articles complement the main piece: one presents a pioneering strategy of Brazil in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Researchers from the Medical School of University of São Paulo (USP), who had been tracking cases of the disease for more than a decade, had the idea of waiting a bit longer before conducting surgery regarded as inevitable. The outcome? In 25% of the cases, it has been possible to postpone or even to avoid the operation, because the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy totally eliminated the tumor. The other text covers the development of radioactive filaments and seeds for the treatment of prostate cancer in Brazil.

In the technology section, it is worth highlighting the studies and solutions raised, to date, to fight greening, a disease identified in 2004, which attacks 18% of the Sao Paulo fruit plantations and which has already led to having more than four million trees uprooted. The article by editor Marcos de Oliveira shows that, thanks to the competence of Brazilian citriculture research, put to the test several times in the fight against orange plantation pests, as with the sadness of citrus fruit, citrus variegated chlorosis and citrus canker, and thanks to pioneering projects such as the X. fastidiosa genome, better researchers have managed to develop molecular tests to identify the sick plants and establish forms of control.

It is equally indispensable to read in this issue the article by Fabricio Marques, our scientific and technological policy editor, about a study on the relation between the competence of Brazilian researchers in writing English, the language of science, and their scientific productivity, as measured by the number of articles published in internationally indexed journals. A high level of written English, according to this research, also means greater scientific production. Given that knowing English has become simply a matter of survival in the academic environment, either because of the need to publish in journals that have an impact, or in order to work in international networks, the essential thing now is for the country to find effective means of building up the linguistic skills of its graduate students, the study notes.

To finish, I highlight in this issue the interview with virologist Edison Durigon, a professor at USP, about the A H1N1 and other viruses that attack the respiratory system. It is worth reading what he has to say about the influenza virus, its evolution and its mutations since the Spanish flu of 1918, the first epidemic of the disease ever to be documented, and to such an extent that it has enabled scientists, ever since, to try to understand more deeply the unhealthy relationship between humans and viruses.