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  • The 2011 information package on how to submit for the thematic issue on cancer is now available. Deadline for submissions is February 27, 2011.
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This Week in The Lancet

  • Volume 377 1719 (2011)
  • May 21, 2011

Progress in the fight against cancer

Cancer is a globally recognised condition whose severity needs no introduction. Today on TLS, Claudia Lopez describes how science has gone from risky, detrimental surgery being the only solution, to advances in medicine that not only target cancer cells, but bring us one step closer to finding that all important cure.

Also, Charlotte Pay shares her fascinating experiences of treating patients in a hospital found on a train! The life-line Express is covered in this week Elective Report.

Cancer Campaigns

These days cancer is a leading cause of death globally, killing approximately 7.6 million people in 2005 (1). To make matters worse, it is estimated that over 40% of all cancer cases can be prevented. However the dramatic increase in risk factors such as tobacco use and obesity are pushing cancer rates up, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Market globalization and urbanization have created a rapidly changing global environment, resulting in an increased consumption of processed foods which, as we all know, are high in fats, sugars and salt. This is also the case for tobacco products; whilst declining consumption of fruit and vegetables, and increasing sedentary activity levels among the population.

The basic mechanism of the disease was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, an increasing number of scientists and investigators have researched several aspects relating to cancer treatment, diagnosis, mechanism of action and prevention.

At first, people who suffered from cancer had only the alternative of surgery for survival and to increase their lifespan. However, nowadays new options that carry less risk than a typical surgery have appeared, along with the development of alternative medicines that target cancer. In spite of these advances, the prevention of this disease remains more important and feasible than finding its cure.

One recent investigation in the field of alternative medicine, conducted by Cayetano Heredia’s University, Peru, reported anti-tumour properties of the Uncaria tormentosa. The experiments showed that the Uncaria tormentosa inhibited cancer growth and reduced tumor size (2). Another recent investigation postulates endocannabinoids as a new therapeutic treatment option to cancer. This compound has the peculiar property of recognizing cancer cells from normal ones, and stopping cancer cell growth (3). There has also been interesting findings in the field of robotics, where nanorobots hold promise in the future of detecting injuries and illnesses which are difficult to reach (4).

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the thousands of achievements that have been made. With the rapid development of current technology, reaching the goal of a definitive solution to this ailment that affects millions of people worldwide is no longer an unfeasible dream, but a real possibility – one which scientists have promised to find in the upcoming years.

Claudia Lopez


  1. OMS. Día Mundial Contra el Cáncer: acción mundial para evitar 8 millones de muertes por cáncer de aquí a 2015. 2006. Available from: URL:
  2. Alejandro A. and collaborators’. Antitumoral and antioxidant effects of a hydroalcoholic extract of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2010; 130: 127–133. Available from:
  3. Mayorgan F, Cárdenas R. Los endocanabinoides: una opción terapéutica para el tratamiento del cáncer. Revista de la facultad de química farmacéutica 2009; 16: 263-271. Available from: URL:
  4. Barranco O. Innovación en medicina: la nanomedicina (parte I). 2007; 3(11). Available from: URL:

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