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Big Claim

When Gary Gilliland, the president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, predicted that there could be cures for cancer within the next 10 years, he led others in the field to raise their eyebrows.

On CNBC, Gilliland said he's seen tumors "melt away" in patients treated with chimeric antigen receptor T cells that are genetically engineered to seek out cancer cells.

Critics say, though, that optimism for a cancer cure in such a short timeframe is unrealistic.

"I have to say that the claim that we will have cures for every cancer within 10 years is so wildly optimistic as to be out of touch with reality," David Gorski from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute tells Health News Review. He further notes that it typically takes 15 years to translate a basic science finding into a validated treatment for humans.

Similarly, In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe says that for a cancer cure to be that close on the horizon, Gilliland would have to be sitting on a number of potential therapies and that everything downstream would have to go perfectly smoothly.

He adds that Gilliland's claim is "irresponsible."

"Sure, tell people that we're making a lot of progress, tell them that we've opened up whole new avenues of therapy in the last few years and that we're excited about what could happen as we explore them, tell them that there's more potential than there's ever been. All true!" he says. "But telling people that 'most, if not all, cancers' are going to be cured in ten years? Over the line."

GeekWire adds that Fred Hutch spinout Juno Therapeutics, which focuses on such immunotherapeutics, announced recently that it raised some $1 billion from Celgene.

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