De afgelopen 30 jaar is de kans om een of andere vorm van kanker te overleven verdrievoudigd. En er zijn medicijnen al in de testfase die als smart bombs werken en de oorzaak van de kanker zeer selectief kunnen aanvallen.
Hoewel het bijgaande bericht afkomstig is uit uit de farmaceutische hoek, en daarmee waarschijnlijk enigszins gekleurd, geeft het wel aan dat kanker steeds minder als een grote bedreiging wordt gezien en in de nabije toekomst eenvoudiger te bedwingen….
Cancer Survival Rates Triple
According to a recent government report, the survival rate of currently-living patients previously diagnosed with cancer rose from three million in 1971 to close to ten million in 2001. During that time, the key five-year survival rate has increased from 50% to 64%; the government hopes to soon increase that figure to 70%.
Children with cancer have fared even better. Their five-year survival rate in the 1970s was just 50%; today it is 80%.
Helping all this is a new generation of cancer drugs that are showing promise against a variety of types of cancer which previously fought doggedly against medicine’s best efforts. Scientists say they are finally able to translate decades of research findings into a fundamental understanding of the actual biology and molecular structures of many types of cancer…and from there create “targeted therapies” (some call them smart bombs) that attack the actual sources of cancer growth.
Most-promising are drugs still in test stages that seem to prolong the lives of patients with advanced cancer of the lung, kidney, head and neck…which are some of the most difficult to treat. Recently a new drug called Tarceva was used in an international study of 731 patients with the most-common and most-onerous type of lung cancer; each was diagnosed with just months to live.
Tarceva seems to block a signal which makes cancer cells grow. First results, though of marginal value to the participants, were a promise of better things to come. Those taking the drug lived an average two months longer than patients taking the placebo, a third of those survived more than a year. Just 20% of those receiving the placebo survived as long.
The lead researcher, attached to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, called it a landmark trial and saw much better things to come.
About the same time, a report presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that people who took statins for at least five years appeared to reduce their risk of colon cancer by half. Previous findings have shown similar reductions in a variety of other cancers. Cholesterol-lowering statins are the world’s most commonly-used medication.
Interesting and hopeful, but not conclusive, said most of the research-minded attendees at the conference, pointing out there were no specific clinical trials to establish this fact; to date the conclusions are effectively based on check-offs of the “ever take statins?” box on a general questionnaire given to most patients. More news…doctors have generally blamed the drugs and the therapy for the fact that some patients develop forgetfulness and other relatively-mild but most-annoying symptoms during chemotherapy; now they are not so sure.
According to a recent article in the online version of the journal Cancer, a small study of the cognitive ability of people entering chemo found that 35% had the problem before receiving therapy …and concluded that this was likely due to the cancer itself. Previously doctors had generally accepted this as a side effect, telling patients this and causing a number of them to refuse chemo. On the plus side, the report also stated that — whatever the cause — half the participants were recovering from their mental problems within a year of this treatment.
And finally…Researchers from Austria’s Medical University reported in The Lancet that they are developing a new stool test which hopefully will target the DNA of colorectal cancer, one of the most common cancers in industrialized nations. Too-few patients will readily agree to a colonoscopy, the invasive procedure that is currently required to discover cancer in early stages.