Cancer Cure
Author: William E. Halal and Devin Fidler
Latest Update: Mar 23rd, 2011
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Summary

Currently only a few cancers are curable, and that is often dependent on early detection. (CNN, 03/09) New research and enhanced treatments continue progress toward changing cancer from a life threat to a chronic illness that is manageable. For instance, 81% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are alive 10 years later. Nanotechnology, better drugs, and molecular biology are producing hundreds of far more sophisticated treatments that are selective, non-invasive, and safe.  Nanotech agents are especially promising because they are able to seek out cancer cells, they are small enough to enter cells and destroy them, and they are safely removed later by the kidneys. (PsyOrg, 1/4/10)  TechCast estimates cancer patients will approach normal life spans by 2020-2030, although our experts' confidence in this forecast is relatively low.

Selected Adoption & Forecast Data
Progress underway
 Roughly 50% of cancer patients die of the disease, although recent studies show that death rates are declining somewhat, especially among the young. (Wall Street Journal 9/2/09)
There were only 10 cancer drugs in ‘95, but there were 861 cancer medicines in the research pipeline as of mid ‘09. (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, 4/09)
The former head of the U.S. National Cancer Institute noted in 2006 that cancer could be eliminated as a cause of death by 2015. The Institute no longer supports that view. (Discovery, 10/06)



EXPERT SURVEY RESULTS
Event Being Forecast: Life expectancy of cancer patients approaches normalcy.
 
Forecast Data Analysis
    Mean Std Dev N (# Experts)
Most Likely Year 2026 8 60
Market Size (1-10) 5.1 2.1
Confidence (%) 64 14.8

In addition, 4 experts predicted that this event would never occur; mean confidence: 72%; std. dev.: 14.

 
Frequency Distributions
 Most Likely Year Market Size (1-10) Confidence (%)

TREND ANALYSIS
 
PROS: Trends Driving this Event CONS: Obstacles Opposing this Event
IMPROVED TREATMENTS Nanotechnology and molecular biology are the most promising treatments because they can kill cancer cells precisely with no side effects. Piotr Grodinski, Director of the US National Cancer Institute, summed up the state-of-the-art in 2008: "Five years ago there was nothing the FDA would consider. Today there are 30 small companies working in the field, a handful are in clinical trials, and we expect more soon."
•  Scientists at the University of California are using nanotechnology and microbiology to build "cargo ships" 50 nanometers wide that flow through the bloodstream. The hull of the ships is made of lipids designed to evade the body's immune system, and the surface is covered with molecules that attach to cells and penetrate them. The cargo consists of a nanoparticle and a quantum dot that  track movement on MRI scanners and the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin targeted to destroy tumours. Plans are underway to "zip-code" the ships so they will seek out specific types of cancer. (PhyOrg 9/15/08)
•  Gold nanoparticles have been found to destroy some types of tumors completely when exposed to laser light. Coating the nanoparticles with receptors allows them to be taken into tumor cells that cannot be reached with a laser to stop cell division  CytImmune Sciences has developed a solid gold agent coated with a drug that is in its second round of clinical trials. John Hopkins U. has made iron nanoagents that attack prostate cancer. Rice U. has created gold nanoagents that cook the tumor to death. A leading scientist said: "We're going to see very real progress." (Washington Post 1/27/09; Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2/10/10)
Two cancer treatments using nanoparticles were in use as of 2009, one for ovarian cancer and the other for breast cancer. (Future Edition 8/30/09)
• Carbon nanotubes can act as tiny lasers when exposed to infrared energy and release heat to destroy cancer cells. (Scientific American.com)
•  The first vaccine has been shown to kill cancer in trials conducted at Harvard U. using mice. Another vacinne can help the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells. (Technology Review 7/27/09; Harvard.edu/news 11/25/09)
• A replacement for chemotherapy is underway that stimulates the body's immune system to destroy cancer. Clinical trials are in progress. (Washington Post 10/18/09)
• The genetic sequencing of cancer mutations and the development of less expensive sequencing technologies has allowed scientists to begin to data-mine tumors for their molecular properties in order to find individualized treatments (Technology Review, 9/13/10).
RNA molecules 25-40 nanometers wide are small enough to enter cancer cells and carry drugs to destroy them. (Royal Society of Chemistry, 3/21/10)
Bacteria are being designed to seek out cancer, enter the cells, and produce a toxin that destroys them. (ScienceDaily, 3/31/08)
• Researchers have developed an embryonic genetic therapy that can make mice totally resistant to cancer. Injecting their white blood cells into other mice with cancer completely killed the cancer cells. (Wired Science, 11/28/07)
"Cancer stem cells,” the cells in a tumor that drive its growth, are resistant to standard chemotherapy and go on to trigger regrowth. However, new techniques for better isolating these cells are expected to make them easier to study. (ScienceDaily, 2/8/10) 
Better drugs are appearing. Tarceva, Olaparib, and Avastin are being used to shrink tumors 90%. A vaccine for pancreatic cancer raised 2-year survival rates from 15% to 76%. Statin drugs used to treat cholesterol and heart disease are also effective in preventing cancer.The drug DCA has been shown to kill all forms of cancer cells while not harming healthy cells.  A new drug blocks a genetic mutation that causes melanoma, a deadly skin cancer with few treatments presently; “It’s a spectacular example of how genomic-targeted therapies are beginning to help cancer patients,” said on oncologist. (TechnologyReview 8/25/10; 6/25/09; NewScientist 1/20/07)
BETTER PREVENTION & DETECTION
 At least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable. For instance, tobacco causes 80-90% of all lung cancer deaths. There is also a link between obesity and many types of cancer. Diets high in fruits and vegetables may have a protective effect, and, conversely, excess consumption of meat may be associated with increased risk. Asbestos can cause lung cancer; aniline dyes have been linked to bladder cancer; and benzene can lead to leukaemia. (World Health Organization, 2009)
More than 90 tests are available to detect cancer earlier and more accurately. For instance, biomarkers, such as DNA methylation, can detect early signs of cancer. Researchers at U. of Texas developed a microfluids device that detects cancer in 10 minutes. Antibody-labeled magnetic nanocrystals make cancer cells visible on MRI scans. Silicon nanowires detect subtle signs of cancer and indicate the type. “These devices target molecules with near perfect selectivity,” said a researcher. (nano.cancer.gov; TechnologyReview 8/21/07)
COSTLY Treatments for cancer can cost $250,000. One in four cancer patients said they used up all or most of their savings to pay for treatment, according to a survey of nearly 1,000 survivors. “There’s not enough money to treat everyone,” said a clinician (USA Today 10/12/08).

DRUG DEVELOPMENT HURDLES  It is estimated that the average cost to develop a new drug and bring it to market in the US varies between $500M and $2B and after they have been developed and undergone animal testing, clinical trials of new cancer drugs take an average of eight additional years.(Health Affairs.com)

CANCER IS COMPLEX  Despite advances, cancer remains an extremely complex malady. It encompasses more than 200 diseases requiring different approaches and spreads because of rare cells that cause metastasis, and the composition of cancer cells differs widely in the body.
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Public Comments
(Edited and displayed in 1-2 days)
 
Linda MacDonald Glenn (4/28/2008 12:57:53 PM)
With advances in molecular biology and nanotechnology, a cure is just a matter of time. This is a great time to be alive!
Rudy Polo (8/1/2009 11:17:25 AM)
Nanotechnology is becoming the new hope for researchers looking to find and kill cancerous cells living within a human body, although I agree and hold much hope for this new technology I am not as optimistic in this project meeting its 2023 to 2031 window. These nanoagents supposedly are designed to seek out cancer cells and destroy them, and later be removed by the kidneys, all without any undesirable side effects? This is too good to be true, so I'll reserve my enthusiasm. Due to their structure and properties, these nanoagents are supposed to be among the most promising candidates of multifunctional nanomaterials for clinical diagnostic and therapeutic applications and overall promise of fictionalized nanoagents to treat patients with these debilitating conditions.
Patrick McCann (8/29/2009 12:49:55 PM)
A cure for cancer will require a paradigm shift in the way we treat the disease. Suites of drugs will be required to modulate the multiple genetic mutations which will drive the disease into permanent remission. These suites of drugs will be given at much lower doses and therefore reduce the chances of toxic side effects, increasing the quality of life, and allowing the patient's immune system to also play a part in the "cure". Several prerequisites must be met prior to this approach. First there must be incremental advances in personal genome sequencing in order to provide the annual sequences (part of the annual physical) to compare to the baseline sequence. The second technology required will be a similar, and hopefully simultaneous, advance in personal systems biology maps that highlight how the patients individual genes/mutation cause the disease. The third will be the realization by the BioPharma industry that they must cooperate to develop the "suite" approach to treatment. The last will be an acceptance by the FDA and other Regulatory bodies of the approach to the "suite" approach to treatment. Large BioPharma companies will not lose profits in this approach to personalization as the drugs used in the "suites" will still need to be massed produced. The Oncologist will use the genomic/systems maps to select the dozen or so drugs out of the 50 to 100 available to prescribe for the patient.
Al Leedahl (12/3/2009 11:18:47 AM)
It is quite possible the "real" cure is simpler and less expensive than most think today. But will not be widely promoted until pharmaceutical companies have less control over the medical system. And until individual people have more say in medical treatments--until individual people have to pay more for their own care.
Rupam Shrivastava (3/10/2010 11:45:27 AM)
I am not too optimistic about a 'cure'. We have been running towards this perpetually moving target. I think nano technology targeting individual cancerous cells could be a solution, but it is tough to put a date on that.
Jimmy Buffet (7/31/2010 9:59:56 PM)
If you all had a larger school of thriver mice that have not vendicked into the cancer mode that causes most anti fungus in the large intestine of the mini thriver that kills most of the larger cell growth to mastasize into the small intestine of the larger and more tested field of folloowed seed.
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