• Question: How close are we to finding a cure to cancer?

    Asked by codfissh to Reka, Judith, Gemma, Emma on 11 Jan 2019. This question was also asked by archiediable.
    • Photo: Reka Nagy

      Reka Nagy answered on 11 Jan 2019:


      I think this requires a bit of clarification – ‘cancer’ is not one disease! There are around 200 different types of cells in your body, and each of them can get cancer – but say, skin cancer, is totally different to lung cancer in terms of the things that cause them, and the genetic changes that happen within the cancer cells. Because of this, treatment for these cancers will also be different!

      There are already some types of cancer for which we have pretty good treatments – I hesitate to call them ‘cures’ since cancers can often return after they seemed to have been treated.

      Another reason why it’s very difficult to find cures for the different types of cancers is that even when a cancer affects one cell type, the genetics of that cancer might be different in different people – even in breast cancer, for example, there are subsets of people who react well to a given therapy, while in others, the therapy has no effect. And that one is a well-studied cancer! All this makes it very, very hard to develop cures!

    • Photo: Judith Sleeman

      Judith Sleeman answered on 15 Jan 2019:


      As Reka says, there are a huge number of diseases that we group together as ‘cancer’. Some are already much more treatable than others. It’s very hard to say when (or if) we will be able to treat all cancers as they are all so different, even the same type of cancer in different people. Hopefully one day we will, though.

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