Medical science is no longer in the dark about how certain cancers are able to stage a comeback. But shedding light on the cancer stem cell theory has forced us to reevaluate the efficacy of our own weapons as we wage war against the disease.
The previous director of the National Cancer Institute wanted to banish suffering and death from cancer by 2015. Current director Harold Varmus says this claim was not based on reality, but huge strides in prevention, detection, and treatment are being made.
In December, Big Think hosted a panel discussion to discuss this question and highlight cutting-edge cancer research as part of our Breakthroughs series, made possible by Pfizer. This conversation featured back-and-forth exchanges between top luminaries in the field, including:
Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Varmus won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989 for discovering the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes.
Dr. Doug Schwartzentruber, Surgical Oncologist at the Goshen Center for Cancer Care. Time magazine ranked Dr. Schwartzentruber as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2010.
Dr. Deborah Schrag, Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dr. Schrag is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Lewis Cantley, Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. His discovery and study of the enzyme PI-3-kinase have proved highly influential for cancer research.
This panel was moderated by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University. Dr. Mukherjee is the author of "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer," which was nominated as a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.