Could somebody be hiding the cure for cancer?

25th March 2020

A stubborn myth that we often see popping up on social media is that there’s already a cure for cancer, but it’s being hidden from the public for some reason. A myth is exactly what this is. Read on to get the full explanation from our experts.

Billions have been spent on cancer research over many decades, but we still haven’t cured cancer. Our experts explain why that is — and why we still urgently need to fund more cancer research.

One survey suggests that over a quarter of Americans believe this to be absolutely true, while a further 1 in 7 believe that it might be true.

Could there really be a big conspiracy? Is it possible that pharmaceutical companies are hiding the cure for cancer to make a profit from cancer drugs?

We want to shed some light on the issue and explain why it’s simply not true - there is no ‘hidden cancer cure’.

Because we already know we’re not looking for a single cure for cancer.

Cancer is a name for a group of over 200 distinct diseases. Types of cancer vary considerably in their causes and the way in which they grow and spread - the sheer complexity of cancer makes a single cure incredibly unlikely.

We may not find a single cure, but we do have the tools and treatments to cure many people already. Cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years and continue to improve. Half of all people diagnosed with cancer in the UK in 2019 will survive their disease for 10 years or longer. That’s astonishing progress – and it’s been achieved by cancer research that has been carried out over years.

Because it wouldn’t be profitable for ‘Big Pharma’ to hide a cure for cancer.

Apart from the scientific improbability of a universal cancer cure, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of economic sense to hide a cure, either. Even if a potential silver bullet existed, it would take decades to test it on each type and stage of cancer. This kind of testing requires vast amounts of money.

What would the benefit of hiding a cure be? Big pharmaceutical companies invest billions in the development of new drugs. If one of them had struck gold and found a magic bullet, they’d want to claim those expenses back.

Because it wouldn’t be possible to keep something like a cure for cancer secret.

The sheer scale of the operation would be mind-boggling. Think of the huge amount of people involved in the research and manufacturing of the drug. Could that number of people really keep such a secret? 

Dr Robert Grimes published a great paper in which he studied the mathematical likelihood of conspiracy theories. He created a model using real uncovered medical conspiracies to estimate how long it would take for something like this to be uncovered, depending on the amount of people involved.

Dr Grimes estimated that, if only the biggest pharmaceutical companies were involved in the conspiracy, there would still be around 714,000 people who knew something. And with that many people involved; his calculations show that it would only take around 3.17 years for someone to blab.


In 2023 we said “Yes!” to 30 new pioneering ideas from outstanding cancer researchers around the world

Because cancer researchers want to create new treatments that help people.

A lot of people believe in a ‘Big Pharma’ conspiracy because the companies involved are exactly that – companies that exist to make money for their shareholders. But these companies aren’t faceless, they’re made up of people. And whether people are rich, famous or a board member of a pharmaceutical company, cancer doesn’t care, it affects everyone.

Everyone knows somebody that has been affected by the disease – it doesn’t make sense that some of those people would be willing to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones by hiding new cures.

Because we are all human and we all have the same goal.

At Worldwide Cancer Research, we are surrounded by colleagues, scientists, doctors, patients and supporters who are dedicated to their quests to conquer cancer.

Suggesting that there’s some kind of conspiracy to make money by holding back a lifesaving cure for cancer insults the people who contribute every day to finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. 

One day we will stop the suffering caused by cancer.

Not because of a miracle drug, or because there’s a secret cure out there already, but because hundreds of thousands of people are working together every day, and all over the world, to find new cures.

I didn't think I would have any future - but olaparib gave me hope

Olaparib has been revolutionary for the treatment of ovarian cancer. Read Fiona’s story and find out how Olaparib was developed thanks to pioneering research made possible by people just like you.

Fiona's story

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Further reading

Cancer explained Young girl leaning on woman's shoulder
Cancer explained

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