Moffitt doctors say they're closing in on cures for certain common cancers

Not too many years ago, finding a cure for cancer sounded like science fiction, but not anymore. Especially for certain kinds of cancer.

"In the United States, cancer deaths have actually plateaued and are starting to go down," said John Cleveland, the director and executive vice president of Moffitt Cancer Center. "We are developing therapies that are really making a difference."

That’s especially true with certain kinds of cancer researchers at Moffitt believe they are on the verge of eradicating.

"Honestly, we are already curing a lot of HPV-related head and neck cancer," said Dr. Kedar Kirtane, an oncologist at Moffitt. 

Those and other cancers can be caused by the virus known as HPV (human papillomavirus), which is squarely in the sites of doctors who look for a cure and advocate for prevention. 

"Almost all HPV-related cervical cancers are preventable with the vaccine," said Dr. Mian Shahzad, gynecological oncologist at Moffitt.

The HPV vaccine, which is recommended for teenagers, is expected to drastically reduce the risk of certain cancers when they are adults.

"Some of these cancers like cervical cancer hopefully will be eradicated in my lifetime," said Shahzad.

Those cancers spreading to other parts of the body has been a chief concern, but clinical trials at Moffitt show promising results. In those trials, doctors say they re-engineer a patient’s own white blood cells to battle the cancer. 

"Those kinds of therapies are actually giving patients cures for stage four metastatic disease," said Cleveland.

Doctors caution that more clinical trials are needed and that every patient and diagnosis is different.

"So, while we can cure some patients, we can’t cure all of them, and the goal is to cure all of them," said Kirtane.

That doesn’t sound as impossible as it once did, as doctors close in on cures for cancer.