Cancer Research: Past, Present and Future

Ya Cao, Ronald A. DePinho, Matthias Ernst and Karen Vousden in Nature:

In your opinion, what have been the most important findings in cancer research in the past 10 years?

Ya Cao. Cancer has been identified as a chronic disease1. In an attempt to battle this disease the World Health Organization have developed three principles on cancer prevention: they have estimated that current prevention strategies could prevent up to one-third of new cancers; they have suggested that improved early screening could result in the detection of one-third of cancers at an early stage; and they have proposed that a comprehensive treatment strategy could improve survival and quality of life for another one-third of patients with advanced cancer. These strategies offer the most cost-effective, long-term control of cancer.

Cancer is a vastly complex disease exhibiting a plethora of changes in multiple genes. More and more attention is now being focused on the relationship between infection and cancer. For example, about 200,000 women die every year from cervical carcinoma, which is closely associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Importantly, a vaccine against HPV was the first cancer vaccine to be developed and should substantially reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Besides HPV, Helicobacter pylori infection is linked with gastrohelcosis, which is the precancerous stage of gastric cancer. Clearly, the relationship between H. pylori and gastric cancer is an important basis for developing an efficient therapeutic strategy for controlling H. pylori infection and, ultimately, gastric cancer.

In the post-Human Genome Project (HGP) era, researchers and scientists are again recognizing the importance of the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis from the genome-wide level.