Despite a four-decade war against cancer, which kills an estimated 600,000 annually, there is yet to be a known Cancer cure and research has given reasons for this.
Cancer has been such a hard problem to tackle mainly because of a lack of basic understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive it.
Cancer is seen today less as a disease of specific organs, and more as one of molecular mechanisms caused by the mutation of specific genes. The implication of this shift in thinking is that the best treatment for, say, colorectal cancer may turn out to be designed and approved for use against tumours in an entirely different part of the body, such as the breast.
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Much progress has been made in attempts at tackling cancer. Thanks to a much deeper understanding of cell biology and genetics, there exist today a growing number of targeted therapies that have been designed at a molecular level to recognise particular features specific of cancer cells.
Along with chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, these treatments—used singly and in combination—have led to a slow, but steady, increase in survival rates. Childhood cancers and breast cancers are much more curable now than they used to be.
But there remains much work—and research—to be done: some of the most promising new cancer medicines are the product of our deeper understanding of how cancer cells mutate and escape removal by the body.
Researchers however say, over the next five to ten years the era of personalised medicine could see enormous progress in making cancer survivable.
Meanwhile, the director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at The Institute of Cancer Research, is of the opinion that most cancers cannot be cured and scientists should give up trying and, instead, look for ways to manage the disease.
An expert in childhood leukaemia, Professor Mel Greaves, said developing more advanced cures would only lead to cancer cells becoming more resistant to treatment.
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He believes that scientists should focus on prevention, such as giving aspirin to all over 50s to stop the onset of stomach cancer, and stalling the disease once it has emerged.