Is There a Cure for Cancer?

Despite decades of headlines proclaiming the “cure for cancer,” no magic bullet has been found for this disease. This, in part, reflects the reality that cancer is not one disease, but many. Most cancers arise as a result of chronic exposures, resulting in mutations accumulated over a lifetime of cigarette smoking, high-fat diet, excessive sun exposure and alcohol consumption.

However, some cancers (particularly those found in children) occur spontaneously. These childhood malignancies are sometimes associated with a single genetic abnormality that gives rise to closely related clones of cells, often carrying the identical causative mutation. In these instances, an effective therapy can eradicate the tumor. Thus, childhood cancers are often more curable than cancers that occur in adults. For the average adult cancer, numerous abnormalities contribute to the ultimate carcinogenesis. When therapies are applied, they eliminate some – but not all – of the transformed cells. This results in the common experience of clinical improvement followed by subsequent recurrence.

In most adults, each patient’s cancer arises in a unique individual and from a unique combination of causative factors. It is unlikely that any one treatment can address all of the different cancer types that arise in this complex interaction between “seed and soil.” So, when we address the question “Is cancer curable?” the response is a resounding “maybe.”

Patients presenting with their own unique disease need therapy that specifically addresses their cancer biology. The newest classes of drugs that more selectively target changes in cancer cells, may be our best hope. Laboratory platforms that enable us to match patients to treatments (such as the EVA-PCD® platform offered at Rational Therapeutics) offer us a unique opportunity to provide the most effective, least toxic combinations with the hope of cures for the largest number of patients today and in the future.