So how is it going in the fight against cancer?
There’s plenty of good news, according to the latest report from the American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C’s Scientific Partner: the death rate from cancer in the United States is dropping, long-term survival for people with cancer has improved, and a host of new therapies are coming into use. But continued progress will require more breakthroughs in basic research, persistent efforts towards behavior change, elimination of disparities, and augmented federal funding, according to the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2017. (http://www.cancerprogressreport.org)
“As research has taught us more about the biology of cancer, we have made incredible advances in cancer treatment and prevention that are saving lives today,” said Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, president of the AACR, director of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, and chief executive officer of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio. “The opportunity to make more transformational breakthroughs will require a strong federal commitment to providing consistent, annual, above-inflation increases to the budgets for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”
Highlights noted in the report include:
• The age-adjusted U.S. cancer death rate declined by 25 percent from 1991 to 2014, which translates into 2.1 million cancer deaths avoided.
• The U.S. 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined rose from 49 percent in the mid-1970s to 69 percent in 2013, which is the last year for which we have data.
• Because cancer is primarily of disease of aging and the older population in the U.S. is growing, it is estimated that the number of new cancer diagnoses will rise from 1,688,780 in 2017 to 2,255,290 in 2030.
• From August 1, 2016, to July 31, 2017, nine new anticancer therapeutics were approved for use by the FDA, including seven targeted therapies and two immunotherapies.
• FDA also approved new uses for eight previously approved anticancer therapeutics.
Since smoking is a major cause of lung cancer and tobacco use is linked to 17 other types of cancer, the decrease in cancer numbers can be attributed partly to the declining rates of tobacco use. From 2000 to 2015, total cigarette consumption decreased by over 38 percent, the report says. On the other hand, more research is needed to investigate the health consequences of using e-cigarettes and water pipes.
“In particular, we need to fully understand whether e-cigarettes have value as cigarette-smoking cessation aids and how they affect use of other tobacco products by smokers and nonsmokers,” the report says.
Unfortunately, disparities remain in the detection and treatment of cancer across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, the report notes.
For example, the death rate from prostate cancer among African-American men is more than double that for men of any other racial or ethnic group, and Hispanic children are 24 percent more likely to develop leukemia than non-Hispanic kids. Women of low socioeconomic status who have early-stage ovarian cancer are 50 percent less likely to receive recommended care than women of high socioeconomic status.
Looking to the future, the report calls for continued efforts to make available to researchers around the world enormous amounts of data generated by thousands of cancer research projects.
“As we move forward, I foresee the collection, accumulation, and analysis of ‘big data’ as holding the key to the next transformational breakthroughs,” Dr. Caligiuri said.
Progress takes money, and the report called for “robust, sustained, and predictable growth” in federal budget allocations, including a boost of $2 billion for the NIH is fiscal year 2018, an $80 million increase for the FDA, and full funding for the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot and other initiatives.