Professor Mel Greaves claims that most cancers cannot be cured and rather than continue researching cures, experts should focus their time and energy on ways of preventing and managing the disease instead.
Professor Mel Greaves is the director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research; he is also an expert in childhood leukemia. In addition, he is also a leading figure in the study of cancer evolution – the Darwinian process by which cancer cells mutate and diversify by natural selection within our tissue ecosystem.
He believes that developing more advanced cures would only lead to cancer cells becoming more resistant to treatment.
Instead, scientists should focus on prevention, for example giving aspirin to people over the age of 50 to stop the onset of stomach cancer and stall the disease once it has emerged.
Greaves asserts that talks of a cure in terms of elimination are unrealistic. He does however cite childhood leukemia which has a cure rate now of 90% which he claims to be an exception.
There are few cancers that are curable, but most are probably not, including the common carcinomas in adults.
Many different institutions are attempting to find cures for individual cancers using increasingly advanced methods.
Some of these methods include ramping up the body’s own immune system to fight the disease; personalized treatments based on the DNA of the tumors and gene therapies.
Unfortunately Professor Greaves does not believe that any therapy will work in the long term because tumors will continue to evolve like all life-forms.
Most reports about new target therapies work dramatically, but within three months the cancer is back stronger than ever.
Professor Greaves urges experts to look at the age distribution of cancers; most patients diagnosed are in the 60s, 70s and 80s. If researchers are able to slow everything down for 10-15 years, that would be a huge advance.
Not all scientists agree with Professor Greaves, some are still confident that a cure exists.