For millions of patients and families around the world, cancer is a devastating disease. It remains the second greatest killer in the United States,[i] but we have made great strides in the war on cancer. Overall, life expectancy has increased and more patients are able to defeat their cancer. New medicines are playing an increasingly important role in achieving these gains.
Two new personalized medicines for lung cancer and melanoma now provide effective options for patients with tumors expressing certain genetic markers. The personalized melanoma treatment and another new melanoma medicine became the first new approvals for the disease in 13 years.
Even more promising treatment gains are on the horizon – many researchers believe we are in the midst of a revolution in cancer treatment that offers great hope for patients in need of new options. Learn more
Historic Gains Against Cancer
Life expectancy is increasing for cancer patients. Medicines are an important part of life expectancy gains
Since 1980 life expectancy for cancer patients has increased about 3 years and 83% of those gains are attributable to new treatments, including medicines.[ii] Another study found that medicines specifically account for 50-60% of increases in survival rates since 1975.[iii]
"We have made remarkable progress. With the advent of targeted therapies, we have the ability to directly impact the growth of cancer."[iv]
- Dr. Kenneth C. Anderson, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 2012
“Millions of current and future cancer patients are relying on us all to change the face of cancer on their behalf. We should ask no less of ourselves at this critical juncture. We are now maximizing the impact of fundamental discoveries made over the past 40 years by seizing on the unprecedented opportunities to translate these discoveries into improved patient care. Working together, we will turn the tide on cancer.”[v] - Dr. Margaret Foti, American Association for Cancer Research, 2012
Cancer death rates are down
Improvements in treatment have helped cut changes in cancer death rates in half between 1993 and 2004; rates fell an average of 2.1% per year between 2002 and 2004, twice the decline of the previous five years.[vi]
According to the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate fell 22% for men and 14% for women between 1990 and 2007, which translated to 898,000 fewer deaths from the disease in this period.[vii]
The tremendous value represented by this declining death rate is evident in research findings by University of Chicago economists Kevin Murphy (a MacArthur fellow) and Robert Topel. They report that reducing cancer death rates by 10% would be worth roughly $4.4 trillion in economic value to current and future generations.[viii]
Five-year survival is rising
The chances that a cancer patient will live at least 5 years has increased across cancers. In 1975-79 the 5-year survival rate was less than 50%. By 2004 (the most recent data available) survival rose to 67.3%.[ix]
Survival is increasing dramatically for many forms of cancer. Between 1975 and 2004 (the most recent data available) 5-year survival went up 19% for women with breast cancer (75.5% to 89.9%), 50% for men with prostate cancer (66.4% to 99.9%), 35% for patients with colon and rectum cancer (48.7% to 65.9%), and 46% for lung and bronchus cancer (11.5% to 16.8%).[x]
New Cancer Medicines Significantly Advanced Treatment in 2011
The American Society of Clinical Oncology identified 12 major cancer treatment advances in 2011 that had the potential to reduce cancer mortality, of these, 10 are related to new medicines, better ways to use existing medicines, or newly approved medicines.[xi]
“Scientifically, we have never been in a better position to advance cancer treatment. … We now understand many of the cellular pathways that can lead to cancer. We have learned how to develop drugs that block these pathways. And increasingly, we know how to personalize therapy to the unique genetics of the tumor, and the patient.”[xii]
- Rickard L. Schilsky, M.D., President, ASCO, 2008
New Medicines Offer Hope for the Future
Today 981 medicines are in development to prevent, treat or cure cancer. These medicines are the product of our growing understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cancer and they treat the disease in new and innovative ways. These new medicines promise to build on the progress we have seen against cancer in recent years. Click here to learn more.
The medicines in development—all in either clinical trials or under Food and Drug Administration review— include among others 121 for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and 119 for breast cancer, which is expected to strike more than 230,000 American women each year. The medicines in development also include 94 for prostate cancer, which is expected to kill more than 28,000 American men each year, and 66 for colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in both men and women in this country. Learn more
[ii]E. Sun, et al. “The determinants of recent gains in cancer survival: An analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, May 2008 Suppl (Abstract 6616).
[iii]F.R. Lichtenberg, "The Expanding Pharmaceutical Arsenal in the War on Cancer", National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 10328 (Cambridge, MA: NBER, February 2004).
[iv]K.C. Anderson, Sustaining Progress Against Cancer in an Era of Cost Containment Discussion Paper. Kean M, Lessor T (Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Feinstein Kean Healthcare; June 2012.
[v]M. Foti.Sustaining Progress Against Cancer in an Era of Cost Containment Discussion Paper. Kean M, Lessor T (Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Feinstein Kean Healthcare; June 2012.
[vi]D. Espey, et.al, “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2004, Featuring Cancer in American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Cancer, 2007.
[viii]K.M. Murphy and R.H. Topel, eds., Measuring the Gains for medical Research: An Economic Approach, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 42. "Determinants of Survival Following HIV-1 seroconversion after introduction of HAART," The Lancet, 362 (2003):1267-1274.
[ix]National Cancer Institute, Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results, “Fast Stats: An interactive tool for access to SEER cancer statistics”, Surveillance Research Program, National Cancer Institute, http://seer.cancer.gov/faststats. accessed 4 June 2012.
[x]National Cancer Institute, Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results, “Fast Stats: An interactive tool for access to SEER cancer statistics”, Surveillance Research Program, National Cancer Institute, http://seer.cancer.gov/faststats. accessed 4 June 2012.
[xi]M.G. Kris, et.al., “Clinical Cancer Advances 2010:ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28, no. 36 (2010): 5327-5347.
[xii]American Society of Clinical Oncology, “Clinical Cancer Advances 2008: Major Research Advances in Cancer Treatment, Prevention and Screening,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, 22 December 2008.