The future of cancer medicine lies in the development of highly specific strategies which lead to the selective destroying of tumor cells. This is in contrast to many current cancer therapies that target multiplying (i.e. proliferating) cells, and also result in the non-specific destruction of normal cells. Treatments for many childhood malignancies and a number of adult cancers are highly effective but there is a price to pay: either general toxicity or damage to normal organs within the body.
To begin to address the goal of selective cancer therapy we have to understand the differences between normal cells and tumor cells. If we can identify machinery which is either selectively used or functioning incorrectly in the cancer cell it could bring new insights into how to destroy malignant cells. This was the theme of the 1996 forum.