Fighting Cancer With Quantum Computing

In the future, quantum computing may provide several ways to detect cancers before they pose a serious threat.

Thaisa Da Silva for Noema Magazine

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, bestselling author and renowned futurist, who co-founded String Field Theory.

This is an adapted excerpt from “Quantum Supremacy: How the Quantum Computer Revolution Will Change Everything” by Michio Kaku (2023).

In 1971, with great fanfare, President Richard Nixon announced the War on Cancer. Modern medicine, he declared, would finally end this great scourge.

But years later, when scholars evaluated this effort, the verdict was clear: cancer had won. Yes, there were incremental inroads in fighting it with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but the number of cancer deaths remained stubbornly high. Cancer is still the second-leading killer in the U.S., next to cardiovascular diseases. Worldwide, it killed 9.5 million people in 2018.

The fundamental problem with the War on Cancer was that scientists did not know what cancer really was. There was a raging debate about whether this dreaded disease was caused by a single factor, or a confusing collection of them, such as diet, pollution, genetics, viruses, radiation, smoking or just bad luck.

Several decades later, advances in genetics and biotechnology have finally revealed the answer. At the most fundamental level, cancer is a disease of our genes, but it can be triggered by environmental poisons, radiation and other factors like plain bad luck. In fact, cancer is not one disease at all, but thousands of different types of mutations in our genes. There are now encyclopedias of the various types of cancers that cause healthy cells to suddenly proliferate and kill the host.

Cancer is an incredibly diverse and pervasive disease. It is found in mummies that are thousands of years old. The oldest medical reference to it dates back to 3000 BCE in Egypt. But cancer is found not just in humans. It is found throughout the animal kingdom. Cancer, in some sense, is the price we pay for having complex life forms on Earth.

To create a complex life-form, involving trillions of cells performing complicated chemical reactions in sequence, some cells must die as new ones come to take their place; this allows the body to grow and develop. Many of the cells of a baby must eventually die to pave the way for the cells of an adult. This means that cells are genetically programmed to die by necessity, sacrificing themselves to create new complex tissues and organs. This is called apoptosis.

Although this programmed cell death is part of the body’s healthy development, errors can sometimes turn off this death accidentally, so the cell continues to reproduce and proliferate wildly. These cells cannot stop reproducing, and in that sense, cancer cells are immortal. In fact, this is how they can kill us, by growing uncontrollably and creating tumors that eventually shut down vital bodily functions.

In other words, cancer cells are ordinary cells that have forgotten how to die.

It often takes many years or decades for cancer to form. For example, if you had a severe sunburn as a child, you may get skin cancer at that very spot decades later. This is because it takes more than one mutation to cause cancer. It often takes years or decades for several mutations to accumulate, which will then finally disable the cell’s ability to control its reproduction.

But if cancer is so deadly, then why didn’t evolution get rid of these defective genes millions of years ago through natural selection? The answer is that cancer mainly spreads after our reproductive years are over, so there is less evolutionary pressure to eliminate cancer genes.

We sometimes forget that evolution progresses through natural selection and chance. Therefore, while the molecular mechanisms that make life possible are indeed marvelous, they are the by-product of random mutations over billions of years of trial and error. Hence, we cannot expect our bodies to mount a perfect defense against deadly diseases.

Given the bewildering number of mutations involved in cancer, it may take quantum computers — with the extra mathematical firepower to solve complex problems faster than classic computers — to sift through this mountain of information and identify the root causes of the disease. Quantum computers are ideally suited to attack a disease that manifests in so many confusing ways. They may eventually provide us with entirely new battlegrounds on which to confront incurable diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and others.

Liquid Biopsies

How do we know if we have cancer? Sadly, many times we don’t. The signs of cancer are sometimes ambiguous or hard to detect. By the time a tumor forms, for example, there may be billions of cancer cells growing in the body. If a malignant tumor is found, almost immediately your doctor may recommend surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Sometimes, however, it’s too late.

“Quantum computers are ideally suited to attack a disease that manifests in so many confusing ways.”

But what if you could stop the spread of cancer by detecting anomalous cells before a tumor forms? Quantum computers may play a key role in these endeavors.

Today, during a routine visit to the doctor’s office, we take a blood test and might be given a clean bill of health. Yet later, the telltale signs of cancer may emerge. So you might ask yourself, why can’t a simple blood test detect cancer?

This is because our immune system usually cannot reliably detect cancer cells. They can fly under the radar. Cancer cells are not foreign invaders easily recognized by our immune system. They are our own cells gone bad and hence can elude discovery. Therefore, blood tests that analyze immune responses generally can’t recognize the presence of cancer.

But it has been known for more than a century that cancer tumors shed cells and molecules into bodily fluids. For example, cancer cells and molecules can be detected in blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid and even saliva.

Unfortunately, detection is only possible if there are already billions of cancer cells growing in your body. By then, surgery is usually required to remove the tumor. But recently, genetic engineering has finally given us the ability to detect cancer cells floating in our bloodstream or other bodily fluids. One day, this method may become sensitive enough to detect just a few hundred cancer cells, giving us years to act before a tumor forms.

Only within the last few years has it been possible for the average person to benefit from an early warning system for cancers. One promising avenue of research is called a liquid biopsy, which is a fast, convenient and versatile way of detecting cancer that may revolutionize cancer detection.

“In recent years, the clinical development of liquid biopsies for cancer, a revolutionary screening tool, has created great optimism,” write Liz Kwo and Jenna Aronson in the American Journal of Managed Care.

At present, liquid biopsies can detect more than 50 different types of cancer. A standard visit to the doctor may eventually be able to detect cancers years before they become lethal.

In the future, even the toilet in your bathroom may be sensitive enough to detect the signs of cancer cells, enzymes and genes circulating in your bodily fluids, so that cancer becomes no more lethal than the common cold. Every time you go to the bathroom, you might be tested for cancer. The “smart toilet” might become our first line of defense.

Although thousands of different mutations can cause cancer, quantum computers can learn to identify them so that a simple blood test may be able to detect scores of possible cancers. Perhaps our genome may be read on a daily or weekly basis and scanned by distant quantum computers to find evidence of harmful mutations. This is not a cure for cancer, but it allows one to prevent it from spreading so it becomes no more dangerous than the common cold.

Many people ask the simple question, “Why can’t we cure the common cold?” Actually, we can cure a common cold. But since there are over 300 rhinoviruses that can cause colds, and since they constantly mutate, it makes no sense to develop 300 vaccines to hit this moving target. We simply live with it.

This may be the future of cancer research. Instead of being a death sentence, it may eventually be viewed as a nuisance. Since there are so many cancer genes, it might be impractical to devise cures for all of them. But if we can detect them with quantum computers years before they spread, when they are just a small colony of a few hundred cancer cells, then it might be possible to stop their progression.

In other words, in the future, we may always have cancer, but perhaps only rarely will it kill anyone.

Sniffing Out Cancer

Another way to spot cancer in its early stages might be to use sensors to detect the faint odors given off by cancer cells. One day, perhaps your cell phone, with attachments that are sensitive to odors and connected to a quantum computer in the cloud, may help defend not just against cancer, but a variety of other diseases. Quantum computers would analyze the results of millions of “robotic noses” across the country to stop cancer in its tracks.

“In the future … every time you go to the bathroom, you might be tested for cancer. The ‘smart toilet’ might become our first line of defense.

Analyzing odor is a proven diagnostic technique. For example, dogs have been used to detect the coronavirus at airports. While a typical PCR test for the virus may take a few days, specially trained dogs can give a 95% accurate identification within about 10 seconds. This has been used to screen passengers in the Helsinki airport and elsewhere.

Dogs have been trained to identify lung, breast, ovarian, bladder and prostate cancer. In fact, at least two trained dogs had a 99% success rate in detecting prostate cancer by sniffing a patient’s urine sample. In one study, five dogs could detect breast cancer with 88% specificity and lung cancer with 99% specificity.

This is because dogs have 220 to 300 million nasal scent receptors, while humans have only 5 to 6 million. So a dog’s sense of smell is many times more accurate than that of a human. It is so accurate that they can detect concentrations of one part per trillion or the equivalent of a single drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And the area of their brain devoted to analyzing smells is much larger than its counterpart in human brains.

However, one drawback is that it takes a few months to train a dog to recognize the coronavirus or cancer, and there is a limited supply of such specially trained dogs. Could we perform these analyses with our own technology at a scale that might save millions of lives?

Soon after 9/11, I was invited by a TV company for a special luncheon to discuss the technologies of the future. I had the privilege of sitting beside an official from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a branch of the Pentagon famous for inventing the technology of the future. DARPA has a long history of spectacular success stories, such as NASA, the internet, the driverless car and the stealth bomber.

So I asked him a question that had always bothered me: Why can’t we develop sensors that detect explosives? Dogs can easily perform feats that our finest machines cannot.

He paused for a moment, and then he slowly explained to me the difference between dogs and our most advanced sensors. DARPA had indeed studied this question carefully and noted that the olfactory nerves of dogs are so sensitive that they can even pick up individual molecules of certain odors. Artificial sensors developed in our best laboratories cannot approach that level of sensitivity.

A few years later, DARPA sponsored a contest to see if laboratories could create a robotic nose like that of a dog.

One person who heard about that challenge was Andreas Mershin, then a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was fascinated by the near-miraculous ability of dogs to detect a variety of diseases and ailments. Mershin first got interested in this question when studying bladder cancer detection. One dog persistently identified a particular patient as having cancer, even though he had been tested numerous times and was deemed cancer-free. Something was wrong. The dog never changed its position. Finally, the patient agreed to be tested again, and he was found to have bladder cancer at a very early stage before standard laboratory tests could detect it.

Mershin wanted to replicate this astonishing success. His goal was to create a “nano-nose,” with microsensors capable of detecting cancers and other ailments that could then alert you via your cell phone. Today, scientists from MIT, Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere have developed microsensors that are 200 times more sensitive than a dog’s nose.

But because the technology is still experimental, it costs about $1,000 to analyze one sample of urine for cancer. Still, Mershin envisions the day when this technology will be as common as the camera in your cell phone. Because of the sheer mass of data that could come pouring in from hundreds of millions of cell phones and sensors, only quantum computers would have the ability to process this treasure trove of data. These computers could use artificial intelligence to analyze the signals, locate any cancerous markers and send the information back to you, perhaps years before a tumor forms.

In the future, there may be several ways to detect cancer effortlessly and silently before it poses a serious threat. Liquid biopsies and odor detectors may be able to send data to a quantum computer, which could identify scores of different types of cancer. In fact, the word “tumor” may disappear from common discourse in the English language, in the same way we no longer talk about “bloodletting” or “leeches.”

“Liquid biopsies and odor detectors may be able to send data to a quantum computer, which could identify scores of different types of cancer.”

But what happens if cancer has already formed? Can quantum computers help cure cancer once it has begun to attack the body?


At present, there are at least three main ways in which to attack cancer once it is detected: surgery (to cut out the tumor), radiation (to kill cancer cells with X-rays or particle beams) and chemotherapy (to poison cancer cells). But with the emergence of genetic engineering, a new form of therapy is gaining widespread use: immunotherapy. There are several versions of this treatment, but in general, they all try to enlist the help of the body’s own immune system.

Cancer cells, as discussed, unfortunately, can fly under the radar of the body’s immune system. The body’s T and B cells, for example, are programmed to identify and later kill a vast number of foreign antigens, but most cancer cells are not part of this library of antigens that white blood cells can recognize. The fix, then, is to artificially boost the power of our own immune system to recognize and attack the cancer.

In one method, the cancer’s genome is sequenced, so doctors know precisely the type being studied and how it is developing. Next, white blood cells are extracted from our blood while genes from the cancer are processed. The cancer’s genetic information is then inserted into the white blood cells via a virus (which has been previously rendered harmless). Now the white blood cells are reprogrammed to identify these cancer cells. Finally, these recalibrated white blood cells are injected back into the body.

So far, this method shows great promise in terms of attacking incurable forms of cancer, even in late stages when it has spread across the body. Some patients who were told that their case was hopeless have suddenly and dramatically seen their cancers disappear.

Immunotherapy has been used for cancer of the bladder, brain, breast, cervix, colon, rectum, esophagus, kidney, liver, lung, lymph, skin, ovary, pancreas, prostate gland, bone, stomach and for leukemia — all with varying degrees of success.

But there are drawbacks. This method is only available for some cancers, and there are hundreds of different types. Also, because the genetics of the white blood cells have been altered artificially, sometimes the modification is not perfect. This may cause unwanted side effects. And in some cases, these side effects may be fatal.

Quantum computers, though, might be able to help perfect this therapy. Eventually, quantum computers may be able to analyze this mass of raw data to identify the genetics of each cancer cell. Such a monumental task would overwhelm a classical computer.

Each person in the country would have their genome read, silently and efficiently, several times a month through an analysis of their bodily fluids. Their entire genome would be sequenced, with the computer cataloging around 20,000 genes per person. Then this would be compared to the thousands of known possible cancer genes. A vast infrastructure of quantum computers would be required to analyze such a mass of raw data. But the benefits would be enormous: the diminution of this dreaded killer.

Paradox Of The Immune System

There has been a long-standing mystery about the immune system. In order for the body to destroy invading antigens, it must first be able to identify them. Since there are essentially an unlimited number of possible viruses and bacteria, how does the immune system tell the difference between the dangerous and friendly ones? How does it know the difference when it has never encountered a particular disease before? This is like the police knowing whom to arrest in a crowd of people they’ve never seen before.

At first, it seems impossible. There are, in principle, an infinite number of different types of diseases, so it isn’t clear how the immune system could magically find just the right ones.

But evolution has devised a clever way to solve this problem. The B white blood cell, for example, contains Y-shaped antigen receptors that protrude from its cell wall. The goal of the white blood cell is to latch the tips of its Y receptor to a dangerous antigen so that it can either be destroyed or marked for later destruction. This is how it identifies threatening antigens.

“Quantum computers may be powerful enough to unravel, molecule for molecule, how the immune system works its magic.”

When the white blood cell is born, the genetic codes in the tips of the Y receptors that match the receptors to specific antigens are randomly mixed. This is the key. So in principle, almost all the codes that the body may ever encounter are already contained within the various random Y receptors, both good and bad. (To appreciate how a small number of amino acids can create huge numbers of genetic codes, consider a hypothetical example. We start with the fact that there are 20 different amino acids in the human body. Let’s say we create a chain of 10 amino acids, with 20 possible amino acids in each slot. Then there are 20 x 20 x 20 x . . .= 2010 possible random arrangements of amino acids. Compare this to the actual number of possible B cell receptors, which has about 1012 different possible combinations. This astronomical number contains almost all the possible antigens that it may ever encounter.)

Once the Y receptors are all randomized, however, the receptors that contain the genetic codes of the body’s own amino acids are gradually removed. Left behind are Y receptors that only contain the genetic code of dangerous antigens. In this way, the Y receptors can attack dangerous antigens even if they have never encountered them before.

If this is like the police trying to find a criminal within a huge crowd of people, here the police have eliminated all the people previously known to be innocent. So, then, the police know the criminal might be among those remaining.

Because we live in an invisible ocean of trillions of bacteria and viruses, the system works surprisingly well. However, sometimes it backfires. For example, sometimes when deleting the genetic codes found in the body, the body does not eliminate them all. Some of the good codes are left behind, to be attacked by the immune system. In other words, if the police don’t let all the innocent suspects go, some innocents are accidentally left in custody. Once it’s time to interrogate the suspects, some innocents are suspected as well.

This is why the body sometimes attacks itself, creating a host of autoimmune diseases. This might explain why we have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc.

Sometimes, the reverse happens. The immune system not only removes the good codes but also accidentally eliminates some bad codes. Then the immune system cannot identify the dangerous ones, which can cause disease.

This is what might happen with some types of cancer when the body is unable to detect antigens with the wrong genes.

The entire process of identifying dangerous antigens is purely a quantum mechanical one. Traditional digital computers are incapable of reproducing the complex sequence of events that must play out at the molecular level for the immune system to work properly. But quantum computers may be powerful enough to unravel, molecule for molecule, how the immune system works its magic.


The therapeutic applications of quantum computers may be increased when combined with a new technology called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), which allows scientists to cut and paste genes. Quantum computers can be used to identify and isolate complex genetic diseases and CRISPR might be used to cure them.

Back in the 1980s, there was enormous enthusiasm for gene therapy, i.e., repairing broken genes. There are at least 10,000 known genetic diseases that afflict humans. There was a belief that science would enable us to rewrite the code of life, correcting the mistakes of Mother Nature. There was even talk that gene therapy might be able to enhance humanity as well, improving our health and intelligence at the genetic level.

Much of the early research was focused on an easy target: attacking genetic diseases that are caused by a misspelling of a few letters in our genome. For example, sickle cell anemia (which afflicts many African Americans), cystic fibrosis (which affects many northern Europeans), and Tay-Sachs (which affects Ashkenazi Jewish people) are caused by the misspelling of one or a few letters in our genome. There was hope that doctors would be able to cure these diseases by simply rewriting our genetic code.

These genetic engineering trials were conducted in a similar way to immunotherapy. First the desired gene was inserted into a harmless virus, modified so that it could not attack its host. Then the virus would be injected into the patient, so the patient was infected with the desired gene.

“One day, perhaps CRISPR technology can be regularly applied to genetic engineering, which has had mixed success over the years. This would open the floodgates.”

Unfortunately, complications soon arose. For example, the body would often recognize the virus as a foreign body and attack it, causing unwanted side effects for the patient. Many of these hopes for gene therapy were dashed in 1999 when a patient died after a trial. Funds began to dry up. Research programs were drastically scaled back. Trials were reexamined or halted.

But more recently, researchers had a breakthrough when they began to look closely at how Mother Nature attacks viruses. We sometimes forget that viruses attack not only people but also bacteria. So researchers asked a simple question: How do bacteria defend themselves against the onslaught of viruses?

Much to their surprise, they found that over millions of years, bacteria have devised ways to cut up the genes of the invading virus. If a virus tries to attack bacteria, the bacteria may counterattack by releasing a barrage of chemicals that split the genes of the virus at precise points, thereby stopping the infection. This powerful mechanism was isolated and then used to sever viral genetic codes at desired points. The Nobel Prize was given to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna in 2020 for their pioneering work in perfecting this revolutionary CRISPR technology.

This process has been compared to word processing. In the old days, typewriters had to type each letter successively, which was a painful, error-ridden procedure. But with word processors, it was possible to write a program that could allow one to edit entire manuscripts by removing and rearranging its pieces. Similarly, one day, perhaps CRISPR technology can be regularly applied to genetic engineering, which has had mixed success over the years. This would open the floodgates.

One target for gene therapy might be the gene p53. When mutated, it is involved in about half of all common cancers, such as cancer of the breast, colon, liver, lung and ovaries. Perhaps one reason why it is so vulnerable to becoming cancerous is that it is an exceptionally long gene, and hence there are many sites on it where mutations may develop. It is a tumor-suppressor gene, which makes it vital in stopping the growth of cancers. For that reason, it is often called “the guardian of the genome.”

But when mutated, it becomes one of the most common underlying genes in human cancers. In fact, mutations at specific DNA sites are often correlated with specific cancers. For example, longtime smokers often develop cancers at three specific mutations along p53, which may be used to prove that this person’s lung cancer most likely came from cigarette smoke.

In the future, using advances in gene therapy and CRISPR, one might be able to fix the misspellings in the p53 gene using immunotherapy and quantum computers and thus cure many forms of cancer while reducing the lethal side effects.

CRISPR Gene Therapy

Journalist Clara Rodríguez Fernández writes in Labiotech: “In theory, CRISPR could let us edit any genetic mutation at will to cure any disease with a genetic origin.” Genetic diseases that involve a single mutation are the ones researchers tend to target first. She adds in a separate article, “With over 10,000 diseases caused by mutations in a single human gene, CRISPR offers hope to cure all of them by repairing any genetic error behind them.” In the future, as technology develops, genetic diseases caused by multiple mutations in several genes may be studied.

For example, here is a list of some of the genetic diseases that CRISPR is showing promise treating :

1. Cancer

At the University of Pennsylvania, scientists were able to use CRISPR to remove three genes that allow cancer cells to evade the body’s immune system. Then they added another gene that can help the immune system recognize tumors. The scientists found that the method was safe, though ineffective, even when used on patients with advanced cancer.

In addition, CRISPR Therapeutics AG, a Swiss-American biotechnology company, is running a test on 130 patients suffering from blood cancer. These patients are being treated with immunotherapy, which uses CRISPR to modify their DNA.

2. Sickle Cell Anemia

CRISPR Therapeutics is also harvesting bone marrow stem cells from patients suffering from sickle cell anemia. The company is then altering these cells to produce fetal hemoglobin. These treated cells are then inserted back into the body.

“In the future, we may always have cancer, but perhaps only rarely will it kill anyone.”


A small number of individuals are born with a natural immunity to HIV because of a mutation in their CCR5 gene. Normally, the protein made by this gene creates an entry point for the AIDS virus to enter a cell. However, in these rare individuals, the CCRS gene is mutated so that the AIDS virus cannot penetrate a cell. For people without this mutation, scientists are deliberately editing the mutation into the CCRS gene using CRISPR so that the virus can no longer enter their cells.

4. Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a relatively common disease affecting the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems; individuals suffering from it rarely live beyond 40 years of age. It is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene. Doctors in the Netherlands were able to use CRISPR to repair that gene without causing side effects. Other groups, such as Massachusetts-based biotechnology companies Editas Medicine Inc. and Beam Therapeutics as well as CRISPR Therapeutics are also planning to treat cystic fibrosis with CRISPR.

5. Huntington’s disease

This genetic disease often causes dementia, mental illness, impaired cognition and other debilitating symptoms. It is believed that some of the women persecuted at the Salem witch trials in 1692 suffered from this disease. It is the result of a repetition of what’s known as the Huntington gene along the DNA. Scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are using CRISPR to treat this disease.

While diseases caused by minimal mutations make relatively easy targets for CRISPR, diseases like schizophrenia may involve a large number of mutations, plus environmental interactions to occur. This is another reason why quantum computers may be required.

Understanding how these mutations can create an illness at the molecular level may necessitate the full power of quantum computers. Once we know the molecular mechanism by which certain proteins cause genetic diseases, then we can modify them or find more effective treatments.

Peto’s Paradox

But this also raises a paradox about cancer. Biologist Richard Peto of the University of Oxford noticed something odd about elephants. Because of their massive size, one would expect that they would have greater risk for developing cancer than much smaller animals. After all, a larger mass means more cells are constantly dividing, which increases the possibility of genetic errors, like cancer. But surprisingly enough, elephants have a relatively low cancer rate. This became known as Peto’s paradox.

When analyzing the animal kingdom, we see this everywhere. The rate of cancer often does not correspond to body weight. Later, it was found that elephants have 20 copies of the p53 gene, while we humans only have one copy. It is believed that these extra copies of p53 work with another gene called LIF to give elephants an advantage against cancer. So, genes like p53 and LIF are thought to work to suppress the cancers in large animals.

But this might not be the whole story. For example, whales have only one copy of p53 and one version of LIF, yet they have a low rate of cancer. This means that whales probably have other genes, which have not yet been found by scientists, that protect them against cancer. In fact, it is believed that there could be numerous genes that prevent large animals from falling victim to high rates of cancer. Certain sharks may also have some genetic advantage conferred on them by evolution. Greenland sharks can live for up to 500 years, which is probably made possible by a still unknown gene.

“The hope is that by seeing how evolution has found a way to prevent cancer, we could translate that into better cancer prevention,” says Carlo Maley, a professor at Arizona State University, who has studied the p53 gene in the animal kingdom. “Every organism that evolved large body size has a different solution to Peto’s paradox. There’s a bunch of discoveries that are just waiting for us out there in nature, where nature is showing us the way to prevent cancers.” 

Quantum computers may prove instrumental in finding these mysterious anti-cancer genes. There are many ways in which quantum computers may help in the war against cancer. One day, liquid biopsies may be able to detect cancer cells years to decades before tumors form. In fact, one day quantum computers could make possible a gigantic national repository of up-to-the-minute genomic data, using our bathrooms to scan the entire population for the earliest signs of cancer cells.

But if cancer does form, quantum computers might enable modifications to our immune system that would allow it to attack hundreds of different types of cancer. A combination of gene therapy, immunotherapy, quantum computers and CRISPR could potentially cut and paste cancer genes with molecular precision, helping reduce the rare but often lethal side effects of immunotherapy. Further, perhaps a handful of genes, like p53, are involved in most of these cancers, so gene therapy combined with new insights from quantum computers may be able to stop them in their tracks.

“Once we know the molecular mechanism by which certain proteins cause genetic diseases, then we can modify them or find more effective treatments.”

All these breakthroughs in treating cancer, such as liquid biopsies and immunotherapy, prompted President Joe Biden in 2022 to reignite his 2016 Cancer Moonshot, now a national goal to reduce the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years. Given the rapid advances in biotechnology, this is certainly an achievable goal.

Although we may have the ability to completely cure an increasing number of cancers using this technology, we probably will still suffer from some forms of cancer simply because there are so many ways cancer can form. Still, in the future, perhaps we will treat cancer like the common cold, as a somewhat preventable nuisance.

Better yet, another powerful combination of new technologies might give us another line of defense against disease. AI and quantum computers may endow us with the ability to create designer proteins, out of which our bodies are made. Together, these newer technologies may enable us to cure incurable diseases and reshape life itself.