A Journey Towards The Elimination Of Cancer

While cancer may not be a thing of the past in the very near future, pharmacological science advancements have intensified their efforts, targeting one of humanity’s most formidable adversaries with precision. Several forms of cancer are already manageable as chronic conditions while treatment protocols continue to improve patient quality of life.

Cancer is the world’s second biggest cause of death and in 2020 alone accounted for nearly ten million deaths worldwide according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). That’s nearly one in every six deaths, with the most common cancers being breast, lung, colon and rectum, and prostate cancers, the organisation said.[1]

“There is hope in the medium-term future that more cancers will be either preventable, via vaccination, through to evolving technology that will also see more efficient and targeted therapy to decrease the burden of disease,” said Vanessa Snow, Head of Medical Affairs at Janssen South Africa. Cervical and anal cancers already have a vaccine against the cancer-causing HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).[2] A vaccine that protects against Hepatitis B also protects against risks of liver cancer.2

Immunotherapy was developed around a decade ago and the technology was developed based on the discovery that many cancers slow down or halt the body’s natural immune system, the cells that would normally seek out and destroy cancerous cells.[3] “Immunotherapy utilizes the body’s immune system to recognize and treat diseases”, said Snow. She added that while there remains a lot of study to be completed on the method, it adds further hope that cancer’s days as a primary killer are becoming numbered.

“The momentum of scientific progress has been significant over the past decade,” said Snow. Presently, personalised therapy, also known as ‘precision medicine’, is already making significant strides in both preventing unintended damage to healthy cells while annihilating cancer cells more effectively and having fewer side effects on patients.[4]

“There has also been substantial success with cancers like Multiple Myeloma,” said Snow, “Treatment has progressed to such an extent that in many ways, detected early, the disease no longer has to be a death sentence but rather a chronic condition that can be managed, affording a more positive patient outcome when it comes to aspects like quality of life,” she added.[5]

“We are progressing to the next phase of the fight against cancer,” she said. “It is an exciting prospect that as we are already winning the battle against some forms of cancer, we could soon win the war against the collective. I look forward to a time, in the next few decades, where cancer in its totality will be conquered.”

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