The Year That Science Eradicates Cancer Has Been Declared

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In just 35 years, almost no one will die from cancer.

That's according to researchers from the University College London and Kings College London, who have concluded that by the year 2050 virtually no one in the United Kingdom under the age of 80 will perish from cancer. Though the study focused on the U.K., the results could be extrapolated to similar countries with equivalent healthcare services.

The study found that improved diagnostic procedures, declining tobacco-smoking rates, genetic research and improved technology have combined to reduce death rates from cancer by around 1% a year since 1990. The four most deadly varieties of cancer (breast, lung, bowl and prostate) saw a 30% drop in fatalities from between 1991 and 2012. Overall, age-standardized cancer death rates of all kinds dropped 20% over the same time period.

Source: KCL/UCL

How is this happening? "The view offered here is that by the middle of this current century humanity's 'war against cancer' that can be dated back to Hippocrates and before could and should have been largely won," the research team wrote. "It is reasonable to expect that by 2050 nearly all cancer related deaths in children and adults aged up to (say) 80 years will have become preventable through life style changes and because of the availability of protective technologies and better pharmaceutical and other therapies."

Much of this improvement comes from the fact, the researchers argue, that cancer treatments, therapies and detection methods are greatly improving every year. Based on our current development trajectory, a range of medicines and immuno-therapies will be developed that should be able to "cure or to contain the development of even advanced cancers."

So is this game over? Not quite. The researchers cautioned that defeating cancer will require coordinating a wide variety of different research projects, since cancer can afflict many different cell types in many different ways. In other words, "... there cannot ever be a single, low cost, 'magic bullet' technical solution to overcoming all the challenges that cancer presents," the study warns.

Unfortunately, this study comes at the same time England's National Health Service decided to discontinue funding 25 separate cancer treatments, some of which were effective but high-cost. "The Cancer Drugs Fund is falling apart when there is still no long-term solution in place," Breast Cancer Care's Samia al Qadhi told the Guardian.

The study authors made it a point to criticize the cuts and said that reaching the target year would require extensive efforts to expand access to cancer treatments. UCL's Professor David Taylor told the Telegraph that "This is a projection of what is already happening. Overall age-standardised cancer deaths are down 20% since about 1990."

"What makes this a special point in history is that cancers are in the process of becoming either preventable or effectively curable," he added. "We can do much better. We shouldn't chicken out on it ... We're not spending too much on cancer."

h/t the Independent