• Question: Do you think that with enough people and trial and error we could cure cancer of all types ?

    Asked by lilymay07 to David, Thiloka, Shonna, Shobhana, Ryan, Ross, Rebecca, Rachel, Patrick, Nina, MattyB, Matthew, Marianne, Lorena, Kate, Kaitlin, James, Ettie, Emmanuelle, Deepak, Anabel, Ambre, Alex, AlexAgrotis, Aina on 12 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      I think it’s quite possible. Especially if we improve the use of personalised therapy. That means that each individual person with cancer would have their own cancer/tumour studied to find out exactly what drugs would be most effective in killing it. At the moment, we can do this on a very small scale but it’s super expensive, so the technology has to improve for us to be able to make it widely available.

      There are also lots of kind of cancer that we just don’t have any treatment for yet, even if we know the exact kind of mutations in a person’s cancer. But the better we get at identifying these individual cancers and how they work, we will be able to discover what they are vulnerable too and use that to treat them.

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      We could definitely cure cancer but we couldn’t stop people getting cancer.
      Kate’s answer above about personalised medicine is a really strong area of research at the moment. Making everybody’s treatment specific to them is the best way in my opinion but we also need to do a lot more work to research what those treatments might be.
      Of course, one the best ways to “treat” cancer is to reduce the number of people that get it. Learning about what the genetic and environmental influences that increase your chances of developing cancer is also really important.

    • Photo: Ryan Beveridge

      Ryan Beveridge answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      Kate is right, the next medical revolution will be personalised medicine. We will never be able to cure cancer but one day it will become manageable, you will go to your doctor they will study your cancer and use a specific mix of drugs that are suitable only for your cancer (due to the changes that allowed the cells to escape your bodies own control systems).

      What is becoming very apparent is that lifestyle plays a huge part in cancer and as David has already mentioned the best way to help with treatment is to stay healthy in the first place. Eating well and exercising are things everyone can do.

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      I’m sure the scientists who are working on treatments for cancer would tell us that it is more than trial and error and there is quite a lot of scientific theory into their approaches to developing cancer treatments. Making all cancers curable will depend on not only treatment strategies but early detection and screening strategies, as it is unlikely that we will be able to stop cancers happening, but earlier diagnosis often increases treatment options and curability.

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      I’m not sure we’d want to cure cancer with trial and error. That sounds particularly unethical and expensive and quite time consuming.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 14 Jun 2019:


      I think the sentiment behind this is great, and it would certainly be possible to get there and find a cure for them, provided they were caught early enough. so in theory, you’d also want to develop better testing to diagnose them too. This is in fact what is essentially happening already. Trial and error for each piece of research being done and treatment being tested.

      More people may speed it up, but ultimately as is already pointed out, Personalised medicine is one area that looks greatly promising in this area.

      In terms of getting cancer, as David has said this would still happen due to the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the causes

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 15 Jun 2019: last edited 15 Jun 2019 8:16 pm


      You’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of the size of the problem – in order to really tackle this disease we need a lot of people, a lot of research, and a lot of funding. I think personalised treatments (including also immunotherapy) will certainly be a prominent feature in future approaches to treatment, but not all cancers are life threatening, and a few grow slow slowly as to not have much of an impact on life quality or lifespan.

      Currently, treatments for cancer depend on the type of cancer, and the stage of disease. In a few cases early on, it is already possible to achieve a ‘surgical cure’ i.e. complete removal of the cancer before it spreads elsewhere – one example is early prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate. Interestingly, some prostate cancers are so localised and growing so slowly that they are not considered to have an impact on lifespan (so some men may opt for monitoring rather than surgical removal)
      Here is the most up-to-date information we have on what is available to treat and potentially cure different types of cancer:
      https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/our-progress
      And more details on prostate cancer:
      https://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/treatments/choosing-a-treatment
      It remains highly unlikely that we will ever have a ‘one cure fits all’ approach to cancer, but given that cancer involves the uncontrolled growth of cells that we could really do without, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could somehow reprogram them to make cell types that we are losing as we age? That’s probably fantasy given how abnormal cancer cell genomes are, but you never know….

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