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UT Austin Professor Kevin Dalby Addresses If Cancer Will Ever Be Cured

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Technology and advances in research proactively push forward to fight against a wide range of complex diseases called cancer. New drugs are being discovered, and innovative therapies are emerging every year, helping millions of cancer patients get back to their everyday healthy lives. However, many people are still pondering the question: will we ever get to the point where all cancers are cured?

Kevin Dalby, UT Austin professor at the Department of Oncology in the College of Pharmacy, is an expert in cancer drug discovery and is studying cancer cell signaling mechanisms to develop targeted therapeutics. In the classroom at UT Austin, Kevin Dalby encourages his students to research to understand cancer better to create new treatments. Below, Dr. Dalby explains why it’s hard to say if all cancers will ever be treated successfully.

"Due to the vast range of complicated and diverse factors that make up these diseases, finding a universal cure is extremely difficult. However, I refrain from saying that such a task is impossible due to my optimistic view about the future of cancer treatments. Emerging advancements in both technology and biotechnology are paving an auspicious way. But needless to say, scientists, physicians, clinicians, and researchers still are up against some very tough challenges as progression takes steps closer to finding a cure,” said Kevin Dalby, UT Austin Department of Oncology professor.

For those unfamiliar, to understand a little more about the challenges scientists on the frontlines face when it comes to finding a cure for cancer, it is essential to grasp the difference between a cure and remission. Time is a factor in determining what “cured” means. If someone is cured of cancer, cancer has been eliminated from the body, and there are no traces left behind.

On the other hand, a patient in remission has little to no signs of cancer in the body. Complete remission means that a patient has no identifiable traces of cancer symptoms left in the body. Even though an individual might be in remission or complete remission, cancer cells can still linger in their body. If cancer cells remain in the body, that means that there is a chance of the disease’s return, which typically occurs within the first five years after treatment.

Some physicians consider an individual cured if cancer has not returned after five years. Unfortunately, one of the hurdles cancer creates for scientists is that it can come back after five years, meaning that it takes time to discover if the treatment was successful.

Emerging treatments paving the way for a cure include immunotherapy, which helps the immune system fight off cancer cells.