CANCER patients could have their life expectancy doubled within a decade due to new treatments, researchers have claimed.
Medics at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said new options will mean people get cured while others live far longer.
Experts are currently delving into research into the “cancer ecosystem”.
This allows cancer cells to thrive and is made up of cells and the immune system structures that surround tumours and help them grow, they said.
By using different methods of attack and making them more personalised, they can make great strides in areas such as destroying cancer cells.
The experts added that they may also be able to boost the body’s ability to fight cancer itself,cutting off the ways healthy cells are tricked into helping cancer survive.
Developments include one that they hope will break the ability of cancer cells to instruct other cells in the body to come and support tumours.
Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapeutics at the ICR and consultant at the Royal Marsden, told a briefing: “We recognise the fact that a lump of cancer in a patient is far more than simply a ball of cancer cells.
“It is a complex ecosystem and there are elements within that ecosystem that lend themselves to more advanced forms of targeting that will present for us a huge number of opportunities to cure more patients and to do so with fewer side-effects.”
He said experts were already learning how they might use drugs that do not kill cancer directly, but which “instead talk to the immune system, increasing the function of those cells that are capable of attacking cancer cells and blunting or downregulating the functions of cells which naturally tend to protect the cancer cells”.
He said this shifts “the balance within the ecosystem of the cancer towards an environment that is more conducive to the anti-cancer effects of our standard therapies and of new therapies that we will develop”.
Other research areas include looking at the use of genetically modified viruses to “target cancer cells”.
Researchers will also expand studies looking at the microscopic fragments of cancer shed into the bloodstream with the aim of catching the disease in its earliest stages and to help inform treatment.
Dr Olivia Rossanese, director of cancer drug discovery at the ICR, said: “Newer, more personalised treatments are helping people with cancer to live well for longer, but some types of the disease remain very difficult to treat, and once cancer has spread it is still often incurable.
“We plan to open up completely new lines of attack against cancer, so we can overcome cancer’s deadly ability to evolve and become resistant to treatment.
“We want to discover better targets within tumours and the wider ecosystem that we can attack with drugs.
“We’re finding powerful new ways to eradicate cancer proteins completely and discovering smarter combination treatments that attack cancer on multiple fronts.
“Together, this three-pronged approach can create smarter, kinder cancer treatments, and offer patients longer life with fewer side-effects.”