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Cancer 'will never be eliminated'

There will never be a single cure for cancer and although its incidence will gradually diminish over the next 50 years, it will never be entirely eliminated, according to Britain's top scientist.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said that scientific advances have helped to understand the fundamental mechanisms that turn a cell cancerous but because cancer is so many different diseases, a universal cure is not possible.

"There's never going to be a cure for cancer because cancer is a generic term to describe a set of widely differing diseases, with widely differing causes, that happen where cells divide out of control. And most of the time, cancer is a disease of old age," Sir Paul said in the Radio Times.

"We have repair systems working to repair all cell damage but over time, those damaged cells will 'escape'," he said. "Now this knowledge is fantastic ... It means we're in a position where we could create drugs that will be more specific for a particular cancer. My view is that over decades – it could be 50 years – the incidence of cancers will gradually come down. It's never going to be zero."