May 5 2014, 11:41am CDT | by Forbes
We laymen not only take this good news for granted but tend to project it into the future. Should we?
Put another way is there a sort of “Moore’s Law” of progress against cancer? In the view of the leading cancer expert Gerard Evan, the short answer is No. But there is a longer answer that is only slightly less cheering.
In a remarkably upbeat assessment at an international conference in Ireland last week, Evan, a professor at both Cambridge University in England and the University of California-San Francisco, predicted that the disease will probably be beaten within three decades. “I can pretty confidently say that my children will never have to worry about dying from cancer,” he commented. “I’m more worried about global warming than my children dying of cancer.”
As for a sort of Moore’s Law, Evan believes that progress against cancer will not so neatly follow the steady increase in computer processing power predicted by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in the 1970s. “The effort to improve cancer survival rates proceeds in fits and starts,” says Evan. “It depends on several things, not least the continuing support of governments for research.”
Nonetheless Evan, a leader in developing so-called intrinsic tumor suppression, one of several new weapons in the cancer war, scarcely conceals his excitement at the current pace of progress. He comments: “I began as a cancer researcher in 1977 and for twenty years we were banging our heads on a brick wall. Then in the mid-1990s the field was suddenly transformed as we began to understand molecular processes. It is as if there were libraries all over the world full of books written in a language we did not understand. Now we understand that language.”
All this adds up to exciting new opportunities for the global pharmaceutical industry. A quick Internet search suggests that among the front runners in developing exciting new treatments are Novartis, as well as AstraZeneca’s Medimmune and Roche’s Genentech. Also in the running are Pfizer and Lilly.
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