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Science Surgery: ‘Will cancer ever be cured?’

Category: Science blog September 21, 2017 Justine Alford 22 comments

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Science Surgery

Our Science Surgery series answers your cancer science questions.

If you have a question that you’d like us to answer, send it to us using the email address at the bottom of this post.

Jonny, on Twitter, asked: “I read a cure for cancer will never be found so more time should be researched into controlling it instead. How true is this?”

A cure for cancer is understandably at the top of many people’s wish lists, and whether one will ever be found is something we’re often asked.

Answering this question isn’t a simple case of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because it depends on the way that the term ‘cancer’ is defined. The word ‘cancer’ is singular, but it reflects more than just one disease. It should actually be viewed as an umbrella term for a collection of hundreds of different diseases. They all share the fundamental characteristic of rogue cells growing out of control, but each type of cancer, and each person’s individual cancer, is unique and comes with its own set of challenges.

That’s why it’s very unlikely that there will be one single cure that can wipe out all cancers. But, as we explain in the short animation below, that doesn’t mean individual cases of cancer can’t be cured. Many cancers in fact already can be. Testicular cancer for instance is very sensitive to treatment with chemotherapy drugs and most cases can be cured – survival today is as high as 98%, and that’s just one example among many.

Researchers aren’t on the hunt for a silver bullet against all cancers. Quite the opposite. The more scientists get to know each type of cancer inside and out, the greater the chance of finding new ways to tackle these diseases so that more people can survive.

That’s why our life-saving research goes on.

Justine

We’d like to thank Jonny for asking us this question. If you’d like to ask us something, email sciencesurgery@cancer.org.uk, leaving your first name and location (optional).