Hopes and hypes in cancer treatments. Part I

The war is still on

The war against cancer is still ongoing. A lot of different approaches have been tested, and those of you who have followed the development of innovative and more efficient drugs could very often read these standard half-victory proclamations:

“… and now, with the discovery of the mechanism XYZ can we most likely [definitely/probably/sooner-or-later] make cancer history!”

And then something new comes instead.

Well, it seems like the final battle has not been taken yet. A long way is still left to go to the [full]victory. But first, let’s look at what we have.


Past and present

To create a good overview of the situation, I have looked closer at the arsenal of anticancer methodologies that have been around during the last decades:

  1. Cytotoxic compounds (natural toxins, alkylating agents etc.)
  2. Combinational chemistry
  3. Structure-based drug design
  4. Antibody based biologicals
  5. Stem cells
  6. Kinase inhibitors of different kind
  7. Antibody-drug conjugates
  8. Cancer-stem cells targeting
  9. Virus-based therapeutics
  10. Other Immunotherapies
  11. Cancer vaccines


Gartner Hype ride

What is common for all of these methodologies besides targeting cancer?

If we try to map them on the Gartner Hype Cycle curve (see the graph above), we will find that every of the listed methodologies have already gone through the “peak of inflated expectations”. This peak is reached when the treatment [or a know-how] is considered as the most prominent available approach at a given time. Methodologies 7-11, for instance, are all now situated somewhere around that peak, and some have already started their slide down.

Inevitably, every treatment moves sooner or later further down the slide, i.e. into the stage of “disillusionment”. There has never been any exception yet, and treatments 1-6 have already made this trip all through. What is positive is that all these methodologies (1-11), no matter where they are right now on the Gartner Hype Cycle curve and how fast do they move down the slope – all have left some kind of footprint in a landscape of anticancer drugs.

And these footprints have already led to the development of several very useful medicinal products.


The Newcomer

As the methodologies 1-6 have entered the “plateau of productivity”, meaning that they have to deliver what they promised, the most interesting in cancer treatment is still to come. We wait and harvest.

But there will always be something new heading towards the Peak, and this something is already now at the beginning of the slope, i.e. at the Technology Trigger point. What is it? What will be the next Big Thing that will come next to the hype mountain after immunotherapies?

I do not know for sure but I have a strong clue. [To be continued]


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