Cancer and Aging: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Speaker: Thomas R. Tritton, Senior Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and a Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania

Thursday, June 26 5:30–6:00pm

What insights on aging can cosmetics R&D learn (and apply) from cancer research? Thomas R. Tritton will explore this subject. Cancer is a natural, although not inevitable, consequence of aging. All cells accumulate mutations in their DNA throughout life, and if a particular mutation provokes uncontrolled cell growth, the result can be a malignant tumor. Organisms from the lowly to the human are susceptible, and the disease has plagued us from the very beginnings of life on earth—the unmistakable pathology of cancer is readily seen in dinosaur bones. The oldest descriptions in humans date back to the ancient Egyptians around 1600 BCE where breast tumors were treated with the formidably scary “fire drill.” Sadly, the ancient writings say the treatment failed but on the brighter side, the cosmetics Cleopatra used as eye shadow contained substances that protected her from microbial infections, even if not from cancer.

Slowly over the next centuries we began to understand the basic mechanisms by which cancer develops and to create ever more sophisticated and successful treatments. The mainstays today are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and surgery, and those receiving the dreaded diagnosis of cancer are immensely better off than even 10 years ago. Unfortunately, however, many forms of cancer (brain and pancreas, for example) remain stubbornly intractable to successful long term treatment or cure. The dazzling successes of modern biology offer hope for new therapies, with less toxicity to normal cells, and better tailored to the individual genetic makeup of each patient. Some of the better known hot prospects come from advances in our understanding of stem cells, telomeres and epigenetics, as well as futuristic advances like robot-assisted surgery and proton beam therapy. In the final analysis, the best bet against cancer isn’t to cure it, but to avoid it in the first place, so the session will close with a discussion of cancer prevention and of how to foster leadership within cosmetics R&D that might contribute to our success.

All exhibitors, sessions, presenters, times and locations are subject to change without notice.