Cancer will probably NEVER be eradicated, say Nobel Prize winners

Cancer will probably NEVER be eradicated, say Nobel Prize winners who developed the most promising cancer therapy to date

  • James Allison and Tasuku Honjo won the prize for their work on immunotherapy
  • Immunotherapy trains the body’s natural defenses to fight tumors itself
  • They said cancer could become more manageable but won’t be eliminated
  • A top researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center said that is likely true but scores of cancers – maybe even the majority – could be prevented with lifestyle changes 

The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine say they expect substantial advances toward treating cancer in the next several decades, although it is unlikely the disease could be eradicated.

James Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan made the assessments at a Thursday news conference, days before they will receive the 9 million-kronor ($999,000) prize.

They were named winners of the prize in October for their work in immunotherapy — activating the body’s natural defense system to fight tumors.

‘Soon we’ll get close with some cancers,’ Allison said, citing progress against some forms including melanoma. But, he said, ‘the world will never be cancer-free.’

Addressing their statement, experts said that is, unfortunately, a fair assessment for many unpreventable types of cancer.

James Allison and Tasuku Honjo won the prize in October for their work in immunotherapy, activating the body’s defense system to fight tumors. They said ‘we’ll get close’ but ‘will never be cancer free.’ Pictured at a press conference on Thursday, days before they receive the prize

But there are scores of cancers that can be prevented simply by bringing an end to cigarettes, improving diets and physical activity, and increasing the rate of people who receive the HPV vaccine. 

Honjo, who will receive the award with Allison in Stockholm on Monday, said he expects that immunotherapy will eventually be used against most cancers, often in combination with radiation or chemotherapy.

He believes that cancer can effectively be stalled ‘even if we cannot completely eliminate the tumor, if we can survive with some tumor.’

‘I think what is coming next are triple combinations and quadruple combinations,’ Allison said.

Although immunotherapy is an advance against cancer treatment, the costs are high, with courses of treatment reportedly exceeding $100,000.

‘Something’s going to happen’ about the cost, Allison said. 

‘These high prices are not just a feature of these drugs — it’s almost everything. … It’s out of control. We’ve just got to hope that with completion and wisdom the prices will come down.’ 

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Speaking to, Shelley S Tworoger, associate director of the Population Science division at Moffitt Cancer Center, said that we probably won’t completely eliminate cancer as a disease. 

However, many types of cancer could be prevented entirely with lifestyle changes, allowing us to focus resources on other types, control them better, and perhaps reach a point where they become similar to a chronic disease, like HIV. 

‘Many cancers are preventable,’ Dr Tworoger said. 

‘No matter how you cut it, we can reduce cancer incidence significantly. We can prevent cancers by stopping smoking, improving diet, more physical activity, better weight control, and HPV vaccines.’ 

Indeed, a study by MD Anderson in 2008 found that just five percent of cancers are hereditary, meaning that 95 percent may be caused by influential factors. 

According to the study, up to 30 percent of cancers are caused by smoking cigarettes, 35 percent by poor diet, and up to 20 percent by infections.  

‘There’s lot of things we can’t control,’ Dr Tworoger said. ‘But if you can prevent the cancers that are preventable, you can push them off the table’ and focus on other types.  

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