US President Richard Nixon declared “War on Cancer” in 1971, but it was not until 45 years later that his successor called the country to arms for the final battle. “For the loved ones we've all lost, for the family we can still save, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all”, said US President Barack Obama in his last State of the Union address in January 2016. And, yes, he used the word “cure”, which is not easily said when it comes to cancer.
This hope for new treatments that could really cure cancer, rather than extend lifespan by a limited time, is fuelled by new discoveries in cancer immunology.
Indeed, scientists are talking about a cure. This hope for new treatments that could really cure cancer, rather than extend lifespan by a limited time, is fueled by new discoveries in cancer immunology. “For many years, tumor immunology was not really interesting for the medical world. But now it has become clear that tumor immunology theory translates into clinical success”, said Pierre van der Bruggen from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the de Duve Institute in Brussels, Belgium. The breakthrough came in 2011 when the first drug of a new class, a so‐called checkpoint inhibitor, was approved for the treatment of late‐stage melanoma. Before, there were few treatment options for this devastating disease and life expectancy was measured in just months. But approximately 20% of the patients from the first trials that used the checkpoint inhibitor ipilimumab are still alive today. “That's what lets people talk about a cure for cancer. A patient is still here after 10 years and hasn't been treated for the last 9 years”, said Gordon Freeman, immunologist at Dana‐Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 2011, more checkpoint …
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