"The next few years are going to be very exciting. It would be wrong to raise hopes for patients in the very short term, but it would be unimaginable if we did not turn this work into something immensely useful in 10 to 20 years," he said.
Lane will be the keynote speaker at a London conference organised by the National Cancer Research Institute to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the discovery of a human protein called p53.
The protein has been shown to play a pivotal role in the spread of nearly all cancers.
"I was only a junior scientist at the time. It was clear p53 was important. However, none of us had any idea that it would turn out to be vital to understanding cancer. It is almost a universal factor we now realise," he said.
Cancers arise because DNA errors build up inside the body's cells.
It's p53's role to correct those errors and prevent cancerous mutations from spreading. It organises repairs to damaged cells and, in those beyond repair, it arranges for the cell to be killed off before it can spread and divide.
However, sometimes p53 becomes damaged and cannot do its job. As a result, damaged cells are able to form a tumour.
"In this sense, you can think of cancers as the living dead: they are made up of cells that should have been killed off but which somehow have not and which pass through the body with deadly consequences," said Lane.