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Vision for 2020 launched as ten-year survival for cancer doubles in 30 years

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by Cancer Research UK | News

15 May 2007

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Ten-year survival for all types of cancer combined has reached 46.2 per cent, new statistics from Cancer Research UK reveal today (Tuesday).

The figures – calculated by Professor Michel Coleman and his team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – show that while survival varies widely between different types of cancer, on average a patient with cancer now has a 46.2 per cent chance of being alive ten years after diagnosis* . This compares with 23.6 per cent 30 years ago** . Overall five-year survival is now 49.6 per cent*** .

The charity is setting ten ambitious new goals to achieve by the year 2020. These will build on successes to date and are focused around the charity’s vision of beating cancer. One of the new goals is to increase the overall five-year survival rate to more than two-thirds by 2020.

The sharpest rise in overall survival during the 30-year period between 1971 and 2001 has happened over the last ten years, when ten-year survival for all cancers combined rose by nearly 11 per cent, from 35.4 per cent to 46.2 per cent. Overall five-year survival rose from 39.7 per cent to 49.6 per cent during the same period.

Five-year survival for all cancers combined has risen from 28 per cent 30 years ago, to 34 per cent 20 years ago, to 49.6 per cent today.

The figures show that five-year survival rates range from just 2.5 per cent for pancreatic cancer to 95 per cent for testicular cancer.

Professor Coleman said: “We don’t generally use an overall survival figure for cancer, partly because it is not a helpful number to individual cancer patients anxious to know their own chances. But since the new goals relate to cancer as a whole, we feel it is important to define a simple baseline for watching progress.

“Behind the overall figures lie both disappointments and success stories. Pancreatic cancer and lung cancer both remain low on the scale and have seen little improvement.

On the other hand, survival rates for breast cancer have improved significantly. Almost two thirds of all women newly diagnosed with breast cancer are now likely to survive for at least 20 years. And five-year survival for bowel cancer has risen from 40 per cent to almost 46 per cent over the last decade.”

Cancer Research UK’s new goals are wide-ranging and include reducing cancer incidence, ensuring patients get access to the information they need and reducing current inequalities in incidence and survival between the most and least affluent.

Achieving the goals will not only depend on the work of Cancer Research UK. They are aimed to inspire the whole cancer community to work in partnership to drive down smoking rates, raise awareness of how people can reduce their risk of developing cancer and improve early detection of the disease.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We believe this is the first time a major UK research organisation has put a stake in the ground and said what impact it hopes to have in the long term.

“Our goals are as broad as they are ambitious. They recognise the importance of furthering our fundamental biological understanding of cancer while at the same time taking that knowledge out of the lab and turning it into new treatments.

“We have tried for each goal to quantify both where we are now and where we want to be by 2020. That will enable us to measure our progress – not just in 2020 but along the journey too.”

Improvements in the management of cancer over the past 30 years have led to significantly improved survival for most of the common forms of cancer.

These improvements include: earlier detection of cancer, greater use of specialist surgery, cancer screening programmes, new advances in chemo- and radiotherapy and the routine use of multi-disciplinary teams in agreeing and delivering cancer treatment.

Advances in research mean that new forms of treatments are on the horizon – such as immunotherapy, gene therapy and treatments tailored to individual patients.

Making the latest advances available to all who could benefit from them is at the core of Cancer Research UK’s goals.

The new figures come days after a Karolinska Institute report**** on global access to cancer drugs.

The report placed the UK bottom in a league table of five EU countries ranked by five-year survival. But as the report’s authors pointed out, the proportion of data captured by national cancer registries across the world varies widely, from four per cent to 100 per cent. This variation makes accurate comparisons between countries at best uncertain.

The report also ranked the UK the number one country in Europe for direct cancer research funding, and specifically noted the contribution of the charitable sector.

Harpal Kumar said: “We read a lot of negative stories about the UK’s place in Europe so it’s encouraging these figures show such dramatic improvements in cancer survival. The new goals will help us build on that progress.”

National cancer director Professor Mike Richards said: “Tackling cancer effectively depends on collaboration at every step. While research charities, universities, industry and the NHS have always worked together, those collaborations have never been stronger than they are today. This means we are getting more potential treatments out of the lab and into the clinic, and we are enrolling more patients than ever into clinical trials.

“The Department of Health welcomes these goals because they will spur everyone in the field to work to further improve the prospects of cancer patients, especially those with types of cancer for which outcomes sadly remain poor.”

Harpal Kumar said: “Together with scientists and doctors across the UK as well as with the government, our partners and our supporters, we will beat cancer.”

Further information about the new survival statistics and the goals will be available from 10:00 hrs on 15 May 2007 at our Goals homepage.