Professor Manuel Guzman

The Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Madrid University is headed by Professor Manuel Guzmán (born 1963), his PhD and post-doctoral research focused on the study of the regulation of liver and brain lipid metabolism. Since 2001 he has been involved in the study of how the active components of cannabis (cannabinoids) act in the body, with special emphasis on the molecular mechanisms of action and on understanding how cannabinoids control cell generation and death.

It was a privilege to interview Manuel

Which cannabinoid is the most effective against cancer?

Many people are aware of the anti-cancer properties of cannabinoids, e.g. they can:

  • Trigger cancer cell death (apoptosis)
  • Stop cancer cells dividing
  • Prevent new blood vessels from growing into tumours (angiogenesis)
  • Reduce cancer cells spreading throughout the body (metastasising)
  • Speed up autophagy, which can lead to cell death

But which is the most effective cannabinoid against cancer?

According to Rick Simpson, it is THC and only if it is 95% – 98% potency but the science and the lab experiments indicate that for certain cancers different cannabinoids or even combinations of cannabinoids may be more effective than THC alone

e.g. in the treatment of gliomas. At the University of Madrid they have conducted some experiments into treating gliomas with just THC, just CBD, THC & CBD combined, and THC & CBD alongside the chemotherapy drug Temozolomide

The experiments on human glioma cells so far have been restricted to animal models, however the experiments have been conducted on human cancerous glioma cells and the results indicate that THC & CBD are more effective when they’re combined than just THC on its own.

The most interesting result is that it is only when they administered THC alongside TMZ (Temozolomide) did they get regression

As illustrated below

TMZ

I’m not claiming that Rick’s wrong and Madrid University are correct but what this illustrates is that people have to do their own research and make up their own minds as to what’s their best course of action

My best advice?, follow the science

CANNABIS BASED BRAIN CANCER DRUG ON TRIAL

Cambridge UK medical technology pioneer GW Pharmaceuticals has started trials of a cannabis-based drug designed to treat a notably aggressive form of brain tumour.

The company has begun a Phase 1b/2a clinical trial for the treatment of Recurrent Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). It is initially targeting the US and Europe with the drug.

Glioma describes any tumour that arises from the glial tissue of the brain. GBM is a particularly aggressive tumour that forms from abnormal growth of glial tissue.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, GBM accounts for around 50 per cent of the 22,500 new cases of brain cancer diagnosed in the US each year.

Treatment options are limited and expected survival is a little over a year. GBM is considered a rare, or orphan, disease by the FDA in America and the European Medicines Agency.
 
The new study follows years of pre-clinical research by GW in the field of glioma which suggests that cannabinoids could be a particularly effective potential treatment.
 
Dr Stephen Wright, director of R & D at GW said: “We are very excited about moving this compound into further human study and for the prospects of cannabinoids as new anti-cancer treatments.

“This is GW’s first clinical study of cannabinoids as a potential treatment to inhibit tumour growth. We believe this clinical program demonstrates the flexibility and broad application of GW’s cannabinoid platform to treat significant, unmet therapeutic needs.”

Under CEO Justin Glover, GW is enjoying great commercial success across Europe with cannabis-based treatments for MS and sees cancer as a prime target area for its lead products.

http://www.businessweekly.co.uk/biomedtech-/16126-cannabis-based-brain-cancer-drug-on-trial 

 

 

Cannabis Destroys Cancer Cells, Scientists Find

By HANNAH OSBORNE October 31, 2013

Cannabis components are able to destroy cancer cells and hold the potential to offer drug treatments to sufferers, a study has found.

Researchers at St George’s, University of London, have found non-hallucinogenic cannabinoids are effective anti-cancer drugs.

Previously, scientists had recognised that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main hallucinogenic component of cannabis, has anti-cancer properties.

However, there has been little research into other compounds derived from the drug.

Study leader Wai Liu looked at cannabis derived compounds, known as cannabinoids, to see if any had anti-cancer properties against leukaemia.

Of the six cannabinoids studied, all demonstrated anti-cancer properties as effective as THC. They also found the anti-cancer effects increased when combined with each other.

Cost effective

“This study is a critical step in unpicking the mysteries of cannabis as a source of medicine,” Liu said. “The cannabinoids examined have minimal, if any, hallucinogenic side effects, and their properties as anti-cancer agents are promising.

“These agents are able to interfere with the development of cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from growing. In some cases, by using specific dosage patterns, they can destroy cancer cells on their own.”

The researchers now plan to examine the cannabinoids in combination with existing cancer treatments to find ways to make therapies more efficient.

“Used in combination with existing treatment, we could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer.

“Significantly, these compounds are inexpensive to produce and making better use of their unique properties could result in much more cost effective anti-cancer drugs in future.”

We feed our daughter CANNABIS to stop her thousands of seizures each week: Parents say toddler can now walk and talk for the first time thanks to treatment

A child who suffered from thousands of seizures a week is finally on the road to recovery – after her parents treated her with cannabis.
Doctors told Paige and Matt Figi that their daughter, Charlotte, would not survive much longer after she was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy.
But after years of researching possible cures, her desperate parents have resorted to feeding her marijuana – after stumbling across the controversial treatment online.

Charlotte Figi, six, has Dravet syndrome – a rare and severe form of epilepsy. She was having a thousand seizures a week and her parents were told to prepare for the worst as doctors did not expect her to survive
Charlotte Figi (pictured since her treatment), six, has Dravet syndrome – a rare and severe form of epilepsy. She was having a thousand seizures a week and her parents were told to prepare for the worst
And incredibly, after just a few months, Charlotte has finally begun to walk and talk for the first time – to the amazement of doctors – and her seizures have almost completely stopped.

Mrs Figi said: ‘We tried everything possible, and doctors kept telling us she was going to die.

‘When Matt first told me about the treatment I was horrified – I didn’t want my daughter to get high.

‘But we were desperate and Matt practically begged me to try it. We had tried everything else and nothing was able to help our daughter.

‘But after just one treatment, we were astounded – I couldn’t believe the effect it had on Charlotte.

‘She’s like a totally different girl. We never thought that marijuana would help us give our daughter a chance at life.’

After years of researching possible cures, her desperate parents have resorted to feeding her marijuana – after stumbling across the controversial treatment online

After years of researching possible cures, her desperate parents have resorted to feeding her marijuana – after stumbling across the controversial treatment online. She is pictured since the treatment

Six-year-old Charlotte had her first seizures when she was just three-months-old, she had a normal birth and has a twin sister.

Within a week, she had started to suffer from violent seizures several times a day.

She was eventually diagnosed with Dravet syndrome – a rare and catastrophic form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

Children with the condition tend to develop normally as babies but progress starts to plateau in the second year of life.

After just a few months, Charlotte finally began to walk and talk for the first time – to the amazement of doctors – and her seizures have almost completely stopped.

After just a few months, Charlotte (pictured before her treatment) finally began to walk and talk for the first time – to the amazement of doctors – and her seizures have almost completely stopped

Sufferers face a higher incidence of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy patients (SUDEP).

They often also experience other conditions including developmental delays, sleeping difficulties, chronic infections and difficulty feeding.

WHAT IS DRAVET SYNDROME?
Dravet syndrome is a rare and catastrophic form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.
Children with Dravets tend to have normal development as babies but development starts to plateau when they are in their second year of life.
Individuals with Dravet syndrome face a higher incidence of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy patients (SUDEP).
They often also experience other conditions including developmental delays, sleeping difficulties, chronic infections and difficulty feeding.
There is currently no cure and treatment options are limited – they mainly involve using anti-epilepsy drugs to treat the seizures.
Little is known about the long term prognosis of people with Dravet syndrome.
There is currently no cure and treatment options are limited – they mainly involve using anti-epilepsy drugs to treat the seizures.
Little is known about the long term prognosis of people with Dravet syndrome.

Mrs Figi, from Denver, Colorado, said: ‘We tried every medication possible to help stop the seizures and Charlotte was having thousands of small seizures a day.

‘Matt was serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, so I was struggling to look after our children alone.

‘By the age of five, Charlotte was having a 300 seizures a week and had lost the ability to walk, talk and eat.

‘Matt was back and forth from Afghanistan throughout Charlotte’s life, he had to eventually leave the military because he couldn’t keep flying back during missions and training.

‘The doctors told us to prepare for her death – they told us that she wouldn’t pull through.’

At this point, Mr Figi stumbled across an article online that claimed a child with the same condition as Charlotte had been treated effectively with cannabis.

Mrs Figi said: ‘We were so desperate, Matt had heard of another child with the same condition who had used cannabis to help dramatically reduce the child’s seizures.

‘When we first gave her the cannabis oil she went from having hundreds of seizures a day to none.

‘She went for seven days without a twitch. It was unbelievable.

Six-year-old Charlotte had her first seizures when she was just three-months-old, she had a normal birth and has a twin sister who is not affected by the condition

Charlotte (pictured since being treated with cannabis) had her first seizures when she was just three-months-old, she had a normal birth and has a twin sister who is not affected by the condition

‘She now only has a few seizures a week.
The oil is extracted from the cannabis leaf using alcohol. This is then diluted to a precise dosage.

‘Charlotte receives cannabis oil under her tongue, twice a day. The exact dosage is carefully measured and strictly controlled.’
Mrs Figi has been in contact with the Stanley brothers who run a non-profit organisation, called the Realm of Caring Foundation, which provides cannabis to adults and children suffering from epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, who cannot afford it.

Charlotte’s father, Matt Figi, had to leave the U.S. Army because of her illness. During her childhood he had to be called home from Afghanistan when she fell ill

Charlotte’s father, Matt Figi, had to leave the U.S. Army because of her illness. When she was very ill he had to be called home from Afghanistan to be by her side

The six brothers have been working for years cross-breeding a strain of marijuana that has medicinal properties but does not trigger psychoactivity or induce a ‘high’.

According to CNN, the strain is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound in marijuana that is s psychoactive.

It is also high in cannabidiol, or CBD, which has medicinal properties but no psychoactivity. Scientists think the CBD quiets the excessive electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures.

Mrs Figi recalls: ‘Joe and his family were really nervous and apprehensive to treat Charlotte as she was the youngest patient they had ever had.

‘I had to assure them that it would be okay and that I had already had to sign a do not resuscitate order.

‘After a month of success they changed the name of the strain to Charlotte’s Web, which I think is a great name for it.

Mrs Figi has been in contact with the Stanley brothers who run a non-profit organisation, called the Realm of Caring Foundation, which provides cannabis to people with epilepsy (Charlotte is pictured in one of their promotional tents)

Mrs Figi has been in contact with the Stanley brothers who run a non-profit organisation which provides cannabis to people with epilepsy (Charlotte is pictured in one of their promotional tents)

‘The Stanley brothers do it for very little money and sell the cannabis for pennies.’

Parents all over the U.S. have been inundating Mrs Figi with phone calls and emails expressing their hope for a possible remedy to the syndrome.

She said: ‘Over 200 paediatric patients will be trying Charlotte’s Web in the next few weeks, we expect there will be thousands soon.

‘I don’t have a political agenda, I just want parents to be able to treat and help their children.

‘Parents need access to this medicine as soon as possible.’

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 20 U.S. states

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2391207/We-feed-daughter-CANNABIS-stop-having-thousands-seizures-week-Parents-say-toddler-say-walk-talk-time-thanks-treatment.html

Spain Study Confirms Hemp Oil Cures Cancer without Side Effects

The International Medical Veritas Association (IMVA) is putting hemp oil on its cancer protocol. It is a prioritized protocol list whose top five items are magnesium chloride, iodine, selenium, Alpha Lipoic Acid and sodium bicarbonate. It makes perfect sense to drop hemp oil right into the middle of this nutritional crossfire of anti cancer medicines, which are all available without prescription.

Hemp oil has long been recognised as one of the most versatile and beneficial substances known to man. Derived from hemp seeds (a member of the achene family of fruits) it has been regarded as a superfood due to its high essential fatty acid content and the unique ratio of omega3 to omega6 and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) – 2:5:1. Hemp oil, is known to contain up to 5% of pure GLA, a much higher concentration than any other plant, even higher than spirulina. For thousands of years, the hemp plant has been used in elixirs and medicinal teas because of its healing properties and now medical science is zeroing in on the properties of its active substances.

Both the commercial legal type of hemp oil and the illegal THC laden hemp oil are one of the most power-packed protein sources available in the plant kingdom. Its oil can be used in many nutritional and transdermal applications. In other chapters in my Winning the War on Cancer book we will discuss in-depth about GLA and cancer and also the interesting work of Dr. Johanna Budwig. She uses flax seed oil instead of hemp oil to cure cancer – through effecting changes in cell walls – using these omega3 and omega6 laden medicinal oils.

Actually there is another way to use medical marijuana without smoking the leaf. According to Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya, “The usual irritating and toxic breakdown products of burning utilized with smoking are totally avoided with vaporization. Extraction and inhaling cannabinoid essential oils below ignition temperature of both crude and refined cannabis products affords significant mitigation of irritation to the oral cavity, and tracheobronchial tree from pyrollytic breakdown products.[iii]

Rick Simpson, the man in the documentary below, has been making hemp oil and sharing it with friends and neighbors without charging for it. In small doses, he says, it makes you well without getting you high. “Well you can’t deny your own eyes can you?” Simpson asks. “Here’s someone dying of cancer and they’re not dying anymore. I don’t care if the medicine comes from a tomato plant, potato plant or a hemp plant, if the medicine is safe and helps and works, why not use it?” he asks.

When a person has cancer and is dying this question reaches a critical point. The bravery of Rick Simpson from Canada in showing us how to make hemp oil for ourselves offers many people a hope that should be increasingly appreciated as money dries up for expensive cancer treatments. We are going to need inexpensive medicines in the future and there is nothing better than the ones we can make reasonably cheaply ourselves.

For most people in the world it is illegal so the choice could come down to breaking the law or dying. There is no research to indicate what advantages oral use of hemp oil vs. vaporization but we can assume that advantage would be nutritional with oral intake. Dr. Budwig Below work would sustain this point of view especially for cancer patients.


The Science

According to Dr. Robert Ramer and Dr. Burkhard Hinz of the University of Rostock in Germany medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for cancer.[v] Their research was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Advance Access on December 25th of 2007 in a paper entitled Inhibition of Cancer Cell Invasion by Cannabinoids via Increased Expression of Tissue Inhibitor of Matrix Metalloproteinases-1.

The biggest contribution of this breakthrough discovery, is that the expression of TIMP-1 was shown to be stimulated by cannabinoid receptor activation and to mediate the anti-invasive effect of cannabinoids. Prior to now the cellular mechanisms underlying this effect were unclear and the relevance of the findings to the behavior of tumor cells in vivo remains to be determined.

Marijuana cuts lung cancer tumor growth in half, a 2007 Harvard Medical School study shows.[vi] The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies.

This is the first set of experiments to show that the compound, Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), inhibits EGF-induced growth and migration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. Lung cancers that over-express EGFR are usually highly aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy. THC that targets cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 is similar in function to endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body and activate these receptors.

“The beauty of this study is that we are showing that a substance of abuse, if used prudently, may offer a new road to therapy against lung cancer,” said Anju Preet, Ph.D., a researcher in the Division of Experimental Medicine. Acting through cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, endocannabinoids (as well as THC) are thought to play a role in variety of biological functions, including pain and anxiety control, and inflammation.

Researchers reported in the August 15, 2004 issue of Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, that marijuana’s constituents inhibited the spread of brain cancer in human tumor biopsies.[vii] In a related development, a research team from the University of South Florida further noted that THC can also selectively inhibit the activation and replication of gamma herpes viruses. The viruses, which can lie dormant for years within white blood cells before becoming active and spreading to other cells, are thought to increase one’s chances of developing cancers such as Kaposi’s Sarcoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease.[viii]

In 1998, a research team at Madrid’s Complutense University discovered that THC can selectively induce programmed cell death in brain tumor cells without negatively impacting surrounding healthy cells. Then in 2000, they reported in the journal Nature Medicine that injections of synthetic THC eradicated malignant gliomas (brain tumors) in one-third of treated rats, and prolonged life in another third by six weeks.[ix]

Led by Dr. Manuel Guzman the Spanish team announced they had destroyed incurable brain cancer tumors in rats by injecting them with THC. They reported in the March 2002 issue of “Nature Medicine” that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2 a synthetic compound similar to THC.[x]

Researchers at the University of Milan in Naples, Italy, reported in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics that non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana inhibited the growth of glioma cells in a dose-dependent manner, and selectively targeted and killed malignant cells through apoptosis. “Non-psychoactive CBD produce[s] a significant anti-tumor activity both in vitro and in vivo, thus suggesting a possible application of CBD as an antineoplastic agent.”[xi]

The first experiment documenting pot’s anti-tumor effects took place in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia at the behest of the U.S. government. The results of that study, reported in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, were that marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC, “slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”[xii]

Funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice — lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia. The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research even though the researchers “found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”

“Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids,” an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports, “Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)” — two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. “Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size.”

Marijuana relieves pain that narcotics like morphine and OxyContin have hardly any effect on, and could help ease suffering from illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer.[xiii]

According to Devra Davis in her book Secret History of the War on Cancer, 1.5 million lives have been lost because Americans failed to act on existing knowledge about the environmental causes of cancer. It is impossible to calculate the added deaths from suppressed ‘cancer cures’ but we do know of the terrible suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who have been jailed for marijuana use.

Hemp oil with THC included has the making of a primary cancer treatment, which even alone seems to have a great chance of turning the tide against cancer tumors. It has the added advantage of safety, ease of use, lack of side effects and low cost if one makes it oneself. Surrounded by other medicinal anti-cancer substances in a full protocol it’s hard to imagine anyone failing and falling in their war on cancer.

THC should be included in every cancer protocol.

Sodium bicarbonate is another excellent anti tumor substance that reduces tumors but is much more difficult to administer than THC hemp oil. Cannabinoids are able to pass through all barriers in the body like Alpha Lipoic Acid so simple oral intake is sufficient. With bicarbonate we need intravenous applications and often even this is not sufficient, often we have to use catheters and few doctors in the world are willing to administer this way.

In the end all cancer treatments that are not promoted by mainstream oncology are illegal. No licensed doctor is going to claim that are curing cancer with sodium bicarbonate though they will treat people with cancer explaining they are balancing pH or some other metabolic profile with this common emergency room medicine found also most kitchens of the world. More than several states have passed laws making medical marijuana legal but the federal government will not relax and let people be free to choose their treatments even if their lives depend on it.

Davis notes that the cowardice of research scientists, who publish thoroughly referenced reports but pull their punches at the end, by claiming that more research needs to be done before action can be taken. Statements like these are exploited by industry that buys time to make much more money. It is a deliberate attempt that creates wholesale public doubt from small data gaps and remaining scientific uncertainties.

They have done that with everything right up to and including sunlight. Everything is thought to be dangerous except the pharmaceutical drugs which are the most dangerous substances of all. Stomach wrenching chemotherapy and the death principle of radiation are legal yet safe THC laden hemp oil is not.

It is legal for doctors to attack people with their poisons but you can go to jail for trying to save yourself or a loved one from cancer with the oil of a simple garden weed. Our civilization has put up with this insanity but there is a great price being paid. In a mad medical world people die that need not and this is a terrible sadness that has destroyed the integrity and ethics of modern medicine.

The science for the use of hemp oil is credible, specific fact-based, and is documented in detail.[xiv] There is absolutely no reason to not legalize medical marijuana and create an immediate production and distribution of THC hemp oil to cancer patients. Unfortunately we live in a world populated with governments and medical henchmen who would rather see people die cruel deaths then have access to a safe and effect cancer drug.

Meanwhile the Food and Drug Administration approved Genentech’s best-selling drug, Avastin, as a treatment for breast cancer, in a decision, according to the New York Times, “that appeared to lower the threshold somewhat for approval of certain cancer drugs. The big question was whether it was enough for a drug temporarily to stop cancer from worsening — as Avastin had done in a clinical trial — or was it necessary for a drug to enable patients to live longer, which Avastin had failed to do. Oncologists and patient advocates were divided, in part because of the drug’s sometimes severe side effects.”[xv]

The differences between Avastin and hemp oil are huge. First Avastin will earn Genentech hundreds of millions where THC hemp oil will earn no one anything. Second there are no severe or even mild side effects to taking hemp oil and lastly it is not a temporary answer but a real solution. Certainly hemp oil will ensure a longer life.

http://www.endalldisease.com/spain-study-confirms-hemp-oil-cures-cancer-without-side-effects/

Are we losing the war on cancer?

100 of the world’s experts convened at the weekend to take stock of our progress – and the diagnosis is gloomy. Steve Connor of The INDEPENDENT reports

Drug firms are often reluctant to co-operate with rivals on drugs used in combination therapy

They came from around the world to discuss one question: Are we winning the war on cancer? A few thought we were, some said we weren’t, and most believed that war was the wrong metaphor for the struggle against a complex set of diseases that will affect one person in three at some time in their lives.

A hundred of the world’s leading cancer specialists descended on Lugano in Switzerland last weekend to formulate a 10-point action plan to finish off what President Richard Nixon started on 23 December 1971, when he signed the US National Cancer Act. Although the Act does not use the phrase “war on cancer”, this was how it was widely received at the time.

Most Americans thought a cure for cancer would be discovered within five years – emulating the technological success of landing a man on the Moon. But more than 40 years later, few experts talk of a single cure for the 200 known types of cancer. The optimism of the early 1970s has given way to the dogged determinism of a cancer community under siege from the growing global epidemic.

“Curing cancer is certainly more complicated than landing on the Moon,” said Peter Krammer of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, one of the experts who attended the World Oncology Forum.

People need to realise that there are two types of war on cancer – one focused on a cure for patients and the other based on the elimination of the disease, said Umberto Veronesi, a veteran oncologist and a former Italian health minister.

“In 40 years, we’ve nearly doubled the curability rates for cancer and in another 40 years it is reasonable to assume that we’ll get near total curability,” Dr Veronesi told the forum. “But the second goal of eliminating cancer from the population is a Utopian dream because the incidence of cancer is increasing not decreasing. We can cure a patient but as soon as we cure one patient, another patient arrives.”

Some cancers today are indeed curable compared with 40 years ago – provided, of course, that they are detected early enough. For instance, some types of testicular cancer that are 100 per cent curable today were invariably fatal half a century ago.

Many kinds of cancer are now treatable, and survival rates across almost the entire spectrum have improved dramatically. But cancer is still a leading cause of disease worldwide, accounting for around 13 per cent of all deaths in 2008. As the developing world becomes richer, those countries are also being affected by the cancers of the westernised world, which are dominated by the health impacts of smoking. If recent trends continue, according to the WHO, the global burden of cancer will increase to 22 million new cases each year by 2030 – a 75 per cent increase compared with 2008.

“We don’t talk about the war on cancer because it’s almost cliched. But perhaps it’s time to revive it and look at it again,” said Douglas Hanahan, director of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Lausanne. We are winning some battles in the war, but most of the time we are losing them, essentially because cancer is a disease of extraordinary complexity, he told the meeting.

In 1998, following a front-page story in the New York Times about the success of drugs targeting the growth of blood vessels to a tumour, there was widespread hope that a cure for cancer may have finally arrived, he said. The optimism was soon dashed, however, when it was realised that these angiostatins worked only for a while and cost far too much for widespread deployment. The same story of shattered hopes emerged in more recent times with a new generation of “targeted” drugs designed to work against tumours with a certain genetic make-up. One such drug, BRAF inhibitors, produced near-miraculous results in initial trials, with tumours visibly receding within weeks of treatment. However, six months later, the tumours returned with a vengence with evolution of resistant cancer cells, Dr Hanahan said.

A possible solution to the problem of cancer resistance is the use of one or more drugs or treatments in combination. This anti-resistance strategy of combination therapy works well against the rapidly evolving Aids virus. However, many combination drugs are expensive – hardly affordable when taken alone, let alone when taken together. On top of that, drug companies sometimes appear reluctant to cooperate with competitors holding patents on the other half of the combination therapy.

Even when drugs are cheap, as they are when “off patent”, Dr Hanahan said, the pharmaceuticals industry sees little financial incentive if clinical trials involve drugs not covered by many years of patent protection.

The disease: in numbers

75 per cent: Estimated increase in cancer cases between 2008 and 2030

22m: New cases of cancer each year by 2030

22 per cent: Proportion of cancer deaths worldwide caused by smoking

12.7m: New cases of cancer worldwide in 2008

One half: Proportion of smokers who will die from tobacco-induced cancer

7.6m: Deaths from cancer in 2008

30m: New smokers a year in world