In Brief

New drugs could make cancer a ‘manageable disease’ in ten years

New programme will target mutation of cells to offer ‘good quality of life’

cancer_wd.jpg

Cancer could become a “manageable disease” within the next 10 years, according to a top scientist.

A “Darwinian” programme of new drugs from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is designed to keep tumours in check and stop them being fatal. 

The drugs will aim to stop cancer cells resisting treatment, allowing tumours to either be beaten completely or their growth limited to allow patients to live much longer. The team behind the drugs say they “open up the prospect of long-term control with a good quality of life”.

Chemotherapy and other existing treatments sometimes fail because the deadliest cancer cells adapt and survive, causing the patient to relapse. Professor Workman of the ICR said: “Cancer's ability to adapt, evolve and become drug resistant was the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming it.”

The Daily Mail describes the development as a “new dawn in the cancer war”. The Guardian says “the aim is to take the lethality out of cancer and turn it into a disease that… will no longer shorten or ruin lives”, while The Sun says cancer “could be ‘cured’ within a decade”.

Prof Workman said lab testing and clinical trials for the new medication would take around 10 years before it could potentially become available for patients. It will target a molecule called APOBEC, which is pivotal to the immune system, but is usurped in most cancers.

He said: “We firmly believe that, with further research, we can find ways to make cancer a manageable disease in the long term and one that is more often curable, so patients can live longer and with a better quality of life.”

He added that there must also be a “culture change” so patients no longer worry if cancer cells remain. “We would like to take some of the fear away from advanced cancer, and hope patients will benefit from new approaches that may not always give them the ‘all clear’, but could keep cancer at bay for many years.”

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