Created By: Discar on April 13, 2011 Last Edited By: Discar on April 28, 2011
Troped

Cure For Cancer

A miracle cure for a super disease.

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Launching in 24 hours if no one has any objections

A specific type of MacGuffin, the Cure for Cancer is something like a modern-day panacea. It is the ultimate medical achievement that everyone is looking for. Some people will want to sell it, some will want to spread it for free, and some will want to destroy it.

For some reason (half Fantastic Aesop and half Status Quo Is God), the Cure for Cancer often has some horrific side effect--it causes zombies, is made from people, or what have you. Often combined with Withholding the Cure.

Note that the reason we don't have this in Real Life (and the reason it is so sought-after) is because "cancer" is an extremely general term for any number of diseases. Some of them have actually been cured, especially on individual cases. But no miracle cure is forthcoming.

Minor variations include cures for other terminal, incurable diseases, such as Parkinson's and AIDS. As these are becoming more treatable, however, miracle cures for them are showing up less in fiction.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • In at least one storyline, Norman Osborne invented the cure for cancer...to kill a superhero. Yeah.
  • Wakanda in the Black Panther has had a cure for cancer for centuries, but they refuse to share it with the rest of the world because nowhere else deserves it.
  • There's a Superman What If? story in which Lex Luthor apparently goes straight and starts using his brain for good, and if I recall correctly he finds a cure for cancer.
  • In Squadron Supreme, Tom Thumb travels to the future to steal the Scarlet Centurion's Panacea Potion (which can supposedly cure anything) to cure his cancer. However, Thumb discovered that the Potion consisted of no more than penicillin and a few complex vitamins; it worked with the people of the Centurion's time since over the many centuries the human species' immune systems had been improved through eugenics, but it was ineffective with people of the Twentieth Century.
  • In the Marvel Comics "Death of Captain Marvel" plot arc, all the genius scientist superheroes work together to find a cure for the dying captain's cancer. Which does bring up the question of why they didn't do that years before instead of spending their time beating up bank robbers? More annoyingly, because Reed Richards Is Useless, the cures they did find, but wouldn't work on Mar-Vell because of his powers, are never released to the general public (as seen by the Marvel writers never mentioning them again.)
  • In Marvel Comics, Venom feeds off of Eddie Brock's cancer when they're joined, keeping it at bay.

Film

Literature
  • Succession mentions at one point that every time the main gun is fired, the crew develop "the simplest and most easily cured cancers" as a side effect.
  • In the novel The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman, cancer is eradicated -- and it's discovered, too late, that it was the downside of an important part of the metabolism, which has also been eradicated in the process, drastically reducing human lifespan.
  • One of Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novels is titled A Cure for Cancer. I don't think there is an actual cure - the book just confused the hell out of me to be honest.
  • In the satirical book "Looking Backwards at the 80s (written in 1979) it's discovered that clubbing baby harp seals to death causes their brains to release a chemical that cures cancer.
  • 'Cancer cure=zombies' also appears in the Newsflesh series.

Live-Action TV
  • An episode of The Twilight Zone had an alien come to Earth, landing near a small Mexican town. The Mexicans were distrusting of him/it, and eventually killed it, but not before it tried to give them a gift in a book, which they burned. A nearby white scientist who had seen this happen but was held back from doing anything grabs the book and puts it out. He reads the inscription out loud.
"To the people of Earth. As a gesture of our goodwill here is the formula for curing all forms of cancer." The rest is burned.
  • In Stargate SG1, the Goa'uld symbiont can cure cancer, among other diseases. Jacob Carter became a Tok'ra host for this reason.
  • The (initial) plot of Crusade revolved around a search for a cure for an alien plague.

Memetic Mutation
  • Chuck Norris's tears can cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Newspaper Comics
  • In the 4/17/11 installment of Curtis, a cure for cancer is found in the Film Within A Strip "The Clam." Too bad the scientist who discovers it turns into a giant clam before he can tell anyone.

Video Games
  • In some installments of the Civilization series, "Cure for Cancer" is a "wonder of the world" that a civilization is able to build.

Web Comics
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Dracula discovered the cure for cancer and hid it on Mars.
    Dracula: It's really funny, when you figure it out it's going to seem so obvious. But I don't want to give it away. It'll be really funny.
  • Keychain of Creation (an Exalted webcomic) has two demigods traveling Creation undercover.
    Marena: That means no curing cancer willy-nilly.
    Misho: Oh, but it's so easy once you know how to do it!
    Marena: It's still not period, mister.

Western Animation
  • Near the beginning of the animated "Superman: Doomsday" film Superman is shown hanging out in the Fortress of Solitude trying to find a cure for cancer.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch with the Popeye gang had a guardian angel show Wimpy a world where he never lived ala It's a Wonderful Life -except it was a virtual paradise where a cure for cancer had been found.... by Alice the Goon!
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • April 13, 2011
    foxley
    Wakanda in the Black Panther has had a cure for cancer for centuries, but they refuse to share it with the rest of the world because nowhere else deserves it.
  • April 13, 2011
    PaulA
    There's a Superman What If story in which Lex Luthor apparently goes straight and starts using his brain for good, and if I recall correctly he finds a cure for cancer.

    In the novel The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman, cancer is eradicated -- and it's discovered, too late, that it was the downside of an important part of the metabolism, which has also been eradicated in the process, drastically reducing human lifespan.
  • April 13, 2011
    LeeM
    One of Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novels is titled A Cure for Cancer. I don't think there is an actual cure - the book just confused the hell out of me to be honest.

    Also, any number of quack remedies in the days before truth in advertising laws.
  • April 14, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • Medicine Man. Dr. Robert Campbell (Sean Connery) discovers a cure for cancer and then loses it.
  • April 14, 2011
    Earnest
    • In the Will Smith version of I Am Legend, a cure for cancer had the itty-bitty side effect of causing a Zombie Vampire Apocalypse.

    I could swear I've seen the above happen a few other times. Usually curing cancer is treated as something horrendous on the Scale Of Scientific Sins that usually Goes Horribly Wrong.
  • April 14, 2011
    spikebrennan
    Video games: In some installments of the Civilization series, "Cure for Cancer" is a "wonder of the world" that a civilization is able to build.
  • April 14, 2011
    SKJAM
    Inthe satirical book "Looking Backwards at the 80s (written in 1979) it's discovered that clubbing baby harp seals to death causes their brains to releas a chemical that cures cancer.
  • April 14, 2011
    arromdee
    I think you mean Norman Osborne.
  • April 14, 2011
    CousinApril
    • Near the beginning of the animated "Superman: Doomsday" film Superman is shown hanging out in the Fortress of Solitude trying to find a cure for cancer.
  • April 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    An episode of One Step Beyond (I think) had an alien come to Earth, landing near a small Mexican town. The Mexicans were distrusting of him/it, and eventually killed it, but not before it tried to give them a gift in a book, which they burned. A nearby white scientist who had seen this happen but was held back from doing anything grabs the book and puts it out. He reads the inscription out loud.
    "To the people of Earth. As a gesture of our goodwill here is the formula for curing all forms of cancer." The rest is burned.
    [This is a very vague recollection of an episode I only saw once years and years ago.]
  • April 15, 2011
    Lysythe
    'Cancer cure=zombies' also appears in the Newsflesh series.
  • April 15, 2011
    Arivne
    ^^ @randomsurfer: You're remembering an episode of The Twilight Zone TOS titled "The Gift".
  • April 15, 2011
    Glucharina
    I don't know if it fit, but in Stargate SG 1, Goa'uld symbiont can cure cancer, among other deceases. Jacob Carter became Tok'ra host for this reason.
  • April 15, 2011
    foxley
    In Squadron Supreme, Tom Thumb travels to the future to steal the Scarlet Centurion's Panacea Potion (which can supposedly cure anything) to cure his cancer. However, Thumb discovered that the Potion consisted of no more than penicillin and a few complex vitamins; it worked with the people of the Centurion's time since over the many centuries the human species' immune systems had been improved through eugenics, but it was ineffective with people of the Twentieth Century.
  • April 16, 2011
    jaytee
    I don't have any examples off-hand, but I'm sure I've seen "Cure for AIDS" variants of this. Somewhat discredited these days, since we're actually pretty good at treating HIV and AIDS now.
  • April 16, 2011
    Darthcaliber
    A Robot Chicken sketch with the Popeye gang had a guardian angel show Wimpy a world where he never lived ala It's a Wonderful Life -except it was a virtual paradise where a cure for cancer had been found.... by Alice the Goon!
  • April 17, 2011
    JimCambias
    In the Marvel Comics "Death of Captain Marvel" plot arc, all the genius scientist superheroes work together to find a cure for the dying captain's cancer. Which does bring up the question of why they didn't do that years before instead of spending their time beating up bank robbers?
  • April 17, 2011
    SKJAM
    More annoyingly, because Reed Richards Is Useless, the cures they did find, but wouldn't work on Mar-Vell because of his powers, are never released to the general public (as seen by the Marvel writers never mentioning them again.)
  • April 17, 2011
    Earnest
    If the trailed for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is anything to go by, the cure for cancer works (it is cancer, right?) and without any negative side effects for humans... it's just that it's also made the ape test subjects super smart.

    Come to think of it, the same thing happened in Deep Blue Sea, albeit with a cure for Parkinsons (I think).
  • April 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Marvel Comics, Venom feeds off of Eddie Brock's cancer when they're joined, keeping it at bay. Does This Count?
  • April 18, 2011
    Thundafive
    I believe there's one episode of superman the animated series, justice league, or one of the movies that starts off with lex luthor having the cures for both cancer and aids, chooses one and turns it into a lifetime of treatments so he can make more money
  • April 18, 2011
    AlexRandom
    Chuck Norris's tears can cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.
  • April 18, 2011
    SKJAM
    Newspaper Comics
    • In the 4/17/11 installment of Curtis, a cure for cancer is found in the Film Within A Strip "The Clam." Too bad the scientist who discovers it turns into a giant clam before he can tell anyone.
  • April 18, 2011
    Xzenu
    Often combined with Withholding The Cure.
  • April 22, 2011
    shimaspawn
  • April 23, 2011
    Bushranger
    • The (intial) plot of Crusade revolved around a search for a cure for an alien plague.
  • April 23, 2011
    captainbrass2
    Is it worth mentioning somewhere in the description the statement made by someone trying to restore a sense of proportion to things:"We're just [doing X activity], not finding a cure for cancer"? Seen It A Million Times, but can't think of a specific example.
  • April 28, 2011
    INUH
    Wait a second. If this trope is for any cure for incurable terminal diseases, why exactly is it titled Cure For Canncer?
  • April 28, 2011
    bbofun
    It's titled Cure For Cancer because that's the most common variation on this. If you have a better, more inclusive title, please suggest it. In the Superman:Doomsday example, IIRC, Superman's efforts are contrasted with Lex Luthor, who may have actually created a cure, but, as it is, won't make enough money off it, so has it shelved.
  • April 28, 2011
    INUH
    I'd go with "Miracle Cure" or something like that.
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