You may not have heard, but the clock is officially ticking for cancer. A drug that blocks the protein CD47, which has shown promise in treating leukemia and lymphomas, has now been shown to shrink or even completely erase human cancer tumors transplanted into mice.
This is right after it was shown recently that aspirin is an effective treatment as well, meaning that turning cancer from a possible death sentence to a disease that’s easily treatable could happen sooner rather than later. Like “within the next five years”-type sooner rather than later. Sure, we’ve heard this before, but the reality is, we’re closing in on a cure. Even if these don’t pay off completely, we’re still tantalizingly close in a way we’ve never been before.
And then science is going to be left with a quandary.
Curing cancer has been one of the biggest goals in medical science for the last century. Billions upon billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been spent learning how cancer works and how to stop it. And suddenly that motivation is going to be gone.
So where to next?
The study of Alzheimer’s is, of course, not exactly underfunded or undersupported. But Alzheimer’s should get some more focus for a simple reason: we don’t understand the brain.
One of the side effects of decades of cancer research and funding is that we learned a lot about human biology and medicine along the way. Focusing the resources we were dedicating to cancer on Alzheimer’s would mean we’d learn more about human neurology, still one of the great unexplored frontiers.
AIDS went from a fatal disease to a controllable one…but it’s still not cured. We need to finish the job, especially since finding a cure will have an incredible impact on sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the Third World.
#3) Autoimmune Diseases
Part of the breakthrough in cancer? Figuring out how to get our immune system to do the job for us. That’s pretty much all blocking CD47 does. Working on autoimmune diseases will not only save lives directly, the benefits will save lives indirectly.