A brief note on killing cancer cells in a dish

I am taking the Memorial Day holiday off. I will return next week (or even earlier if something comes up that I can’t resist blogging about). In the meantime, here’s a general principle that needs to be remembered in cancer research:

I would also add to that list: So does bleach. So does acid. So does alkali. So does pouring the media out of the dish and letting the cells dry out. So do a variety of lethal poisons. So does heat. So does cold. The list goes on.

The point, of course, is that it’s very easy to kill cells in a cancer dish. What is difficult is selectively killing cancer cells in the human body while not harming normal cells.

See you all next week!

Posted in: Basic Science, Cancer

Leave a Comment (14) ↓

14 thoughts on “A brief note on killing cancer cells in a dish

  1. Sawyer says:

    The take away lesson here is that all of our research on cancer is not controlled by academia, hospitals, or Big Pharma, but the ultimate puppet-master, Big Petri.

  2. vexorian says:

    This feels like a stupid question, but I’d rather make it than stay stupid:

    Does the impact of gun bullets actually kill cells?

  3. David Gorski says:

    Probably only a few by direct impact. But the bullets destroy the dish, cause all the media to leak out, and the cells dry out and die.

  4. Chris says:

    And if you can believe TV police shows there is also powder burns/residue.

  5. nickmPT says:

    Could be a new Clue game.

    Who killed the cancer?

    It was Dr. Gorski with the gun in the lab.

    The possibilities are endless (almost).

  6. windriven says:


    “Who killed the cancer?”

    The correct form would be:

    Who killed the cancer cells in the TARDIS with a Dalek.

  7. rdscptic says:

    Actually I am amazed the homeopaths haven’t tried this one already.

    Water (without “memory”, quantum magic, nano particles or any other mysticism) will also kill cancer cells in culture.

    Osmotic shock, for those who don’t get the mechanism.

  8. ProSubzero says:

    “Does the impact of gun bullets actually kill cells?”

    The force of bubbles popping in a culture can kill cells. I’d think a pressure wave from a bullet in media could be enough to lyse cells.

  9. lilady says:

    No need for a gun, Dr. Gorski. Hypotonic solution causes cell lysis.

    (Biology 101)

    (Perhaps, a gun is easier to procure, than a bag of sterile hypotonic solution)

  10. JayS says:

    I needed your political cartoon today! I read about the cancer-vitamin nonsense the other day, and sitting here today, Memorial Day, with a mad, self-appointed ambassador, war-mongering politician running around the Middle East, I really needed a reality check! I sincerely appreciate your humor! Thank you!

  11. ebohlman says:

    windriven: Thanks. If I ever write up a spoof of a quack clinic, I’ll have to include “Dalek therapy” as one of the offered modalties.

    lilady: Come to think of it, in the US the manufacture and distribution of guns is subject to far less regulation than the manufacture and distribution of normal saline, let alone sterile water.

  12. DugganSC says:

    The comic comes from XKCD, which does a lot of spoofing of bad science, among other subjects, although I will note that Randall throws in “obvious jokes” in a lot of his charts which occasionally get confused for facts.

  13. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Here’s a list of things for which the state of Texas requires a special permit, and consent to search your property without a warrant:

    Texas hates nosy big government treating people like criminals based on what objects they buy… unless it’s part of the drug war! Then rubber hoses and glass bottles become a threat to national security.

  14. wildFungus says:

    This is so true and i agree with the author. It is easier to make treatment and kill cancer cells outside the body. Human body has many unique mechanism and unless researchers can show it can be used in human body without causing detrimental effect, one can not simple take the pride in stating that they have found something that can kill cancer cells outside the body. Same goes with animal models. Many treatments that have shown to work perfectly fine in animal model either did not show any effect on human body or caused devastating effect on the humans (TGN1412 monoclonal antibody controversy).

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