FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 16 December 2015

What Do We Mean When We Say A Person's Cancer Has Been Cured?

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Edd James, University of Southampton

Until fairly lately, it was unusual to see the words "cancer" and "cured" used in the same sentence. Now, it's much more common. Reports that toddler Layla Richards had been cured of what was thought to be an incurable form of leukaemia were followed with news that former US president Jimmy Carter was cured of brain cancer - a melanoma that had spread from his liver.

In both these cases the most up-to-date immunotherapies were used to treat cancers that normally have poor survival rates. These new treatments use the body's own immune system to identify and kill the cancer and their success in difficult to treat cancers has led to them being hailed as a cure. But is "cured" the right word?

When is a cure not a cure?

The dictionary definition of cured is: to relieve (a person or animal) of the symptoms of a disease or condition; or eliminate (a disease or condition) with medical treatment. These definitions, then, are open to interpretation.

With infections, a cure is the point at which the invading pathogen is removed from the body - using antibiotics, say - so that it is undetectable and the patient is returned to a healthy state. But a cure is not always achieved despite it seeming so, as some infections and viruses can hide and lay dormant even when someone appears in good health. One high profile example was the HIV infected baby who was reportedly cured in 2013 after treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The absence of detectable virus led to the belief that the baby was free of the virus. However, when the drugs were stopped the virus returned.

When it comes to cancer, successful therapy is generally described by professionals as being either in "partial remission" (the cancer has shrunk or stopped growing) or "complete remission" (the cancer is undetectable). Even when patients are in complete remission this does not represent a cure because it is almost impossible to say that all the cancer cells have been destroyed and do not exist in another part of the body. Indeed, if a cancer does return it usually does so within five years of remission.

The future's bright

Immune cells attacking a cancer cell.

Immunotherapy has one very important advantage over conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Once an immune response to the cancer has been initiated it will target the cancer at the site in which it originated, as with conventional therapy. But with immunotherapy the responding immune cells are able to create a memory of the cancer, which can persist for many years, allowing detection and killing of any further cancer cells that may have spread from the original site. It is this important property that has led to the argument that patients that have undergone successful immunotherapy have been "cured" of their cancer when no cancer is detectable.

The ability to treat "incurable" cancers and improve cancer survival is an exciting prospect, but the use of "cure" to describe the status of these patients is premature. Immunotherapies are still in their infancy and we have to be careful not to overstate the claims until the results of long-term studies of patients undergoing this treatment are available. Despite this, the early evidence of strong anticancer immune responses is very encouraging and compelling, and gives a great deal of hope to cancer patients that one day they will really be rid of the disease once and for all.

The ConversationEdd James, Associate Professor in Cancer Immunology, University of Southampton

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Joan Robinson’s Critique of Marginal Utility Theory
The Truth About Trade Agreements - and Why We Need Them
News Blog
Where U.S. Weekly Wages Go The Furthest
What We Read Today 09 December 2016
How To Stop Using Filler Words Like Um And Uh
02 December 2016: ECRI's WLI Growth Index Improvement Continues
Preliminary December 2016 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Highest Since Early 2015
October 2016 Wholesale Sales Improved
Rail Week Ending 03 December 2016: Finally A Positive Month
November 2016 CBO Monthly Budget Review: Total Receipts Up by 1 Percent in the First Two Months of Fiscal Year 2017
Infographic Of The Day: Copyright - Illegal Download
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, Oil Steady, Bank Mafia, Trump To Remain TV Producer, US Life Expectancy Down, India Stocks Suffering, Park Impeached, China Struggles To Support Yuan And More
Heavy Metal And Hard Rock Albums That Went Certified Diamond Status
Down The Drain: Wastewater With The Most Cocaine
Apple's App Store Set For 5 Million Apps By 2020
Investing Blog
Investing,com Weekly Wrap-up 09 December 2016
Are Your Trade Entries Patient Enough?
Opinion Blog
Looking At Everything: Trump's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
The Global Financial Mess Is Due To Political Failure
Precious Metals Blog
Silver Prices Rebounded Today: Where They Are Headed
Live Markets
09Dec2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes On A New High, Trump Sugar High, Crude Prices Testing Resistance, US Dollar Melts Higher
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved