Is it fair for tech companies to hype our prospects of “curing” cancer?

When it comes to diseases like cancer, much can be read into the language we use. For instance, there’s a great deal of debate about whether military terminology like “battling” cancer are useful, or suggest that the disease is a fight that only the strongest can win. 

Likewise, Silicon Valley’s tech companies in recent years have unveiled moonshot initiatives they claim will someday “cure” diseases like cancer. When announcing a $3 billion investment into life sciences research, Mark Zuckerberg described his goal to cure the disease within his daughter’s lifetime. 

We’ve been using such terminology for decades, but is it helpful? Cancer is a particularly tricky one: It fools the immune system—and the drugs we have developed to treat it—by mutating rapidly. It’s extremely difficult to cure, so some medical experts opt to use terms like “better managing” cancer when discussing our future prospects. Others say we’re at a point where we can use terms like cure, in part due to advancements in novel immunotherapy treatments.