Over the past two centuries, cancer care has evolved from a range of experimental treatments based on our limited collective knowledge of the disease to highly advanced targeted treatments based around early diagnosis and intervention.
There is a wide range of cancer treatments approved for use in the UK, including targeted drugs, advanced radiotherapy and more traditional surgical interventions. Each of these can and has saved countless lives and the discovery of each could be considered a vital breakthrough in the history of cancer treatment.
In 1965, the breakthrough that made modern chemotherapy possible happened, thanks to the work of Emil Freireich, Emil Frei and James Holland proposed a treatment system similar to that used by antibiotic therapy.
Instead of using just one medication, using multiple drugs simultaneously would not only be more effective but reduce the risk of resistance.
This led to the development of POMP, which included the use of methotrexate, vincristine, 6-mercaptopurine and prednisone, which turned acute lymphoblastic leukaemia into a disease that can be cured in children.
Once the principle was established, other combinations were developed, creating the field of polychemotherapy that is the most dominant form of chemotherapy used today, and forms the basis of nearly all successful chemotherapy treatments.
It has allowed for chemotherapy to not only be more effective at curing cancer entirely, but also be used in combination with other treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery, or be used to eliminate the risk of cancer returning.