A pioneering cancer treatment that could stop the disease killing people will be developed at a new £75million British research centre.
Instead of blitzing cancerous cells, the new drugs will put tumours to sleep – meaning patients will be able to live with the disease in a similar way to HIV.
It is a radical change from the traditional focus on chemo and radiotherapy, which try to eradicate tumours, often leading to their mutating and returning stronger in a “survival of the nastiest”.
Most cancer deaths are caused by tumours’ ability to mutate and evolve resistance to drugs.
But the new therapy will predict how the disease is likely to mutate, and deliberately trigger mutations that could make tumours lie dormant for decades.
The new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery in Sutton, South London, is due to open next year, with drugs expected to begin trial in three years and be available on the NHS within a decade.
Scientists at the Institute for Cancer Research charity, which is funding the centre, say cancer patients will live long enough that they eventually die of something else.
They are calling for a culture change away from expectations of a cure, towards thinking of cancer as a long-term condition that can be managed and lived with like HIV.
ICR chief Professor Paul Workman said: “We firmly believe that, with further research, we can find ways to make cancer a manageable disease in the long term and one that is more often curable, so patients can live longer and with a better quality of life.
“In the chess game with cancer, it’s about staying ahead of its next move.” The centre is seeking to raise a further £15million from donations to complete and equip the new building.
Dr Olivia Rossanese, who will be head of biology at the centre, said: “We plan to deliver a drug discovery programme that is wholly focused on meeting the challenge of cancer evolution and drug resistance through completely new ways of attacking the disease.
“This ‘Darwinian’ approach to drug discovery gives us the best chance yet of defeating cancer, because we will be able to predict what cancer is going to do next and get one step ahead.”