LIFESTYLE
22/07/2013 12:03 BST | Updated 22/07/2013 12:08 BST

Could This New Approach To Cancer Cure The Disease Altogether?

Apart from AIDS, finding a cure for cancer is the Philosopher's Stone of modern medicine. Now, in research laid out by Harvard University - one of the most respected universities in the world - there may be hope for finally creating a cure for the disease.

According to Sciencedaily, Martin Nowak, a professor of mathematics and of biology and director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and co-author Ivana Bozic, a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics, show that, "under certain conditions, using two drugs in a "targeted therapy" -- a treatment approach designed to interrupt cancer's ability to grow and spread -- could effectively cure nearly all cancers."

cancer drug

In effect, the two-drug approach would stop the cancer from growing and spreading.

Top 5 Cancers Among Men And Mortality Rates:

  • Lung - 19,410

  • Prostate - 10,721

  • Bowel - 8, 574

  • Oesophagus - 5,105

  • Pancreas - 3,872

"In some sense this is like the mathematics that allows us to calculate how to send a rocket to the moon, but it doesn't tell you how to build a rocket that goes to the moon," Nowak said. "What we found is that if you have a single point mutation in the genome that can give rise to resistance to both drugs at the same time, the game is over. We need to have combinations such that there is zero overlap between the drugs."

Top 5 Cancers Among Women And Mortality Rates:

  • Lung - 15,449

  • Breast 11,556

  • Bowel - 7,134

  • Ovary - 4,295

  • Pancreas- 4,029

At present, most cancers are treated with single drug therapies, so the idea of a two-drug step is pioneering. The thinking is that with single drug therapies, the cancer can mutate and develop a resistance to the drug, whereas in two-drug therapies, the thinking is that the "cancer needs to make two independent steps" to develop and therefore may fail.

"I think we can be confident that, within 50 years, many cancer deaths will be prevented," Nowak added. "One hundred years ago, many people died from bacterial infections, and now they would be cured. Today, many people die from cancer, and we can't help them, but I think once we have these targeted therapies, we will be able to help many people -- maybe not everyone -- but many people."

Last week, human trials for a 'wonder drug' that could shrink tumours began, which had been developed by the University of Stanford. That particular drug works by boosting the immune system to break down cancerous tumours.

Other developments in the field of surgery have also been encouraging. Imperial College London unveiled a 'cancer sniffing knife' called the iKnife, which could detect cancerous and non-cancerous tumours, leading to fewer complications and more effective surgery.

(H/T: Cancer Research UK)