Cancer, the uncontrolled proliferation of 'rebel' cells in the body, is one dreaded disease of our time. For some of us, the fight against cancer is personal. We rely on recent medical breakthroughs in cancer research for therapy and to eventually find the cure. As such, all aspects--the biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc.--, everything about cancer have to be understood in order for us to win. Knowledge about cancer is definitely the key.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently formed 12 Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers in the U.S. with the initiative of getting the help of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and other scientists in the physical sciences to join the fight against cancer. I think this is a brilliant idea. Fellow physicists, this is a challenge that we can respond to; we're known for thinking outside of the box, performing thought experiments, proving everything equals zero, formulating theories of everything that at first seem absurd, studying the most fundamental aspects of matter, and even predicting physical behavior on microscopic levels. We need to come up with new ideas on how to selectively destroy the cancer cells (especially the systemic/malignant ones) without harming the healthy cells, even if we have to approach this on a molecular level. For example, maybe we can have some chemical that will selectively bind to the cancer cells and use a low-power rf to zap out the metastasized cancer cells. You might have heard this idea already and I'm sure that there are a lot of better ideas out there. We could collaborate with medical researchers, radiologists, and cancer researchers. Or publish to share our ideas with the medical community. At this point, I'm speaking on a non-expert view of cancer biology; of course, it would definitely help if we can also have a grasp on cancer biology and biochemical mechanisms. I believe physicists can help. This is a challenge where we can step up and in the spirit of the Nobel foundation, "ameliorate the human condition."