Though there is a tremendous amount of work still to do, we have come a long way in the fight to treat cancer. Decades of medical research have allowed healthcare providers to make great strides in helping patients enjoy a better quality of life and live longer lives.
Below, we cover just a few highlights showcasing how valuable cancer medications are to patients worldwide, as well as what we can do to keep improving our treatment options.
Today, many more people are going on to live normal life expectancies despite their cancer diagnoses than was the case forty years ago.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the mortality rate (number of people whose deaths were caused by cancer) was 178 deaths for every 100,000 persons in 2007. This is a significant decline from 1975, when the mortality rate was 199 deaths for every 100,000 persons.
In fact, death rates are declining in the four most common cancer types – lung, colon, breast and prostate – as reported by the American Cancer Society.
The number of individuals who live at least five years after their cancer diagnosis is on the rise, as well. According to the American Cancer Society, the amount of patients living five years post-diagnosis increased by 20%, up from 49% in 1975-1977 to 69% in the years 2005-2011.
Living longer after diagnosis is giving more patients – and their doctors – the time to understand what treatments work best for the individual and treat their type of cancer more aggressively and effectively. This increase in 5-year survival rates is certainly due in large part to medications that have been developed or are currently in development and available in clinical trials.
One of the most astonishing developments over the past few decades is the progress that has been made in treating childhood cancers. Overall, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer survive at least 5 years today, up from 50% in 1975.
One example of the tremendous difference effective medications can make can be seen in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of cancer diagnosed in children and young adults under the age of 20. While less than 10 percent of children with this type of cancer lived for 5 years of more after diagnosis in the 1960s, more than 90 present did by the early 2000s.
Unfortunately, there are certainly many childhood cancers that still need effective treatments, as thousands are diagnosed every year and many die of the cancer from which they were diagnosed. Rare cancers (most commonly defined as those that affect less than 200,000 Americans at any given time) are especially in significant need on continued medical research.
Cancer medications continue to be one of the top types of biopharmaceutical research underway. There is no one cure to cancer, as the term cancer encompasses hundreds of diagnoses. Though you may be familiar with types such as “bone cancer,” “leukemia” or “breast cancer,” each category of cancer has many more types within, each requiring their own research and medical treatments.
Researchers in New York State and around the world devote their lives to understanding the causes of each type of cancer, how it spreads, how it can be treated and how it can be prevented. More than a decade can be spent developing and testing a single drug, and many do not progress past clinical trials or receive FDA approval.
However, the ones that do have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives, making them incredibly valuable and well worth the time, resources and manpower spent to create them.