The US government have the ambitious goal of eliminating suffering and death from cancer by 2015. Experts say that the key to achieving this lies in the field of nanomedicine.
Although still in its infancy - it still doesn't have a properly accepted definition - nanomedicine is the science of using nanometer-sized particles to detect and treat diseases at the molecular level. These particles are already being used to enhance the delivery of drugs but the goal is to develop nanomachines that can function inside the body.
Unlike the machines we are familiar with, these devices will probably not be made from plastics, ceramics and metals but be a combination of synthetic polymers and specially developed biological molecules. Due to their miniature size, they will also need to be self-assembling.
Once developed these machines will be able to detect and treat cancer-causing cells before they have a chance to develop into tumours. Current detection methods are only effective years after the occurrence of the initial event that leads to the development of the cancer. Such treatment has the potential to cure many forms of cancer whilst resulting in others being readily managed and controlled. Within a decade this technology has the potential to make cancer little more than a minor nuisance.