CANCER could be “cured” within a decade, top UK scientists claim.
They say new drugs will keep tumours in check and stop them being fatal.
Prof Paul Workman, of London’s Institute of Cancer Research, said its world-leading work would “make cancer a manageable disease”.
Patients would take a combination of pills to stop the disease killing them, scientists say.
Cancer is so lethal because it adapts and stops responding to drugs — so tumours grow, spread and become incurable.
‘EFFECTIVELY A CURE’
But the team at the ICR has identified what causes some of these changes and is confident medication can stop it.
Prof Workman said the result would be “effectively a cure”.
Patients would still get a mix of radiotherapy, chemo and surgery.
But they would then take medication to stop remaining cancer cells growing or spreading too much.
The goal is to keep the disease under control for so long that people eventually die of something else.
Prof Workman expects the new drugs to be tested and offered on the NHS within a decade.
He added: “We firmly believe . . . we can find ways to make cancer a manageable disease in the long term and one that is more often curable.”
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But he admitted it will require a “culture change” so patients no longer worry if cancer cells remain.
Dr Olivia Rossanese, also from the ICR, said: “We believe this will be the first treatment in the world that rather than dealing with the consequences of cancer’s evolution and resistance, aims to directly confront the disease’s ability to adapt and evolve in the first place.”
The team at ICR said the new drugs will enter clinical trials within a few years and should be offered on the NHS within a decade.
Case study — Christine O’Connell, 46, from South West London
“I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2012, aged 40.
“After intensive treatment over the better part of the following year, I gradually regained a normal life.
“I was fit and well, and nearly 5 years post-diagnosis, I thought cancer was well and truly behind me.
“But in February 2018, I had a seizure.
“A scan revealed a brain tumour, and I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.
“I was in total shock – it was hard to accept how one minute you could believe you were cancer free, and the next be facing an incurable disease that could progress at any stage.
“I am lucky to be on a targeted therapy called palbociclib with side effects that are much easier to manage than chemotherapy, which allows me to have a relatively normal life.
“It gives me hope that my cancer may be kept in check long enough for the next advances in treatment for secondary breast cancer.
“Treating cancer as a chronic condition that can be managed on a long term basis may seem a modest ambition compared to efforts to cure it entirely, but for patients like myself this would be a significant victory.”