Here’s another of our pieces for Al Jazeera Online, looking at some of the biggest global issues in cancer and how we can tackle them.
In 1971, US President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, kick-starting what has become known as the War on Cancer. In the following four decades, cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment has changed significantly in many developed countries. But until relatively recently, these advances had failed to translate into meaningful improvements in survival for many types of cancer.
In the mid-1980s, a statistician named John Bailar published a damning and much-publicised reportlooking at cancer survival rates in the US, concluding that – with the exception of certain diseases such as leukaemia – Nixon’s War on Cancer was a “qualified failure”. This poor public perception still persists today in many quarters, with some people claiming that “nothing has changed” and that “millions of research dollars have achieved nothing”. Yet things have improved – albeit not as fast as all of us would like, and certainly not on a global scale.
From losing to gaining
When Bailar revisited his analysis of the War on Cancer in 1997, the conclusions were still grim. Although survival for more types of cancer was starting to improve measurably in the US, any gains were overwhelmed by surging lung cancer rates, thanks to the smoking boom earlier in the 20th century. But again, the picture has changed over recent years, and survival has climbed consistently in many countries since the mid-1990s. In many parts of the world, your chances of beating cancer today are better than they have ever been.
This improvement has been driven by researchers all over the globe, finding new ways of diagnosing cancer earlier, visualising it within the body, and treating it with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other approaches. In the UK alone, advances in research have saved more than half a million lives over recent decades.
Despite this progress, the statistics are stark. More than 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year worldwide and the disease accounts for more than 15 percent of annual global deaths, claiming more than 7.5 million lives. And, ironically, while advances in public health have helped to reduce deaths from infectious diseases in poorer countries, cancer is a growing spectre in these parts of the world.
celia September 12, 2013
I think its heart breaking that so many people are dying from cancer and maybe driven to take part in these sort of trails. If the drugs companies were looking for cures and not expensive treatments lives would be saved. Cancer is big business!!
miK September 11, 2013
Dr. Kat, what do you think about this? Is this worth getting involved?
Kat Arney September 12, 2013
From what we can tell, this institute is running a very small-scale clinical trial testing whether white blood cells from healthy donors can treat cancers. They’re planning to recruit fewer than 30 people, and there’s more information on the trial here: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00900497?term=BMSCTI&rank=1
This is a very small trial initially testing whether the treatment is safe to use. There’s no evidence at the moment to show that it can effectively treat cancer in human patients although there are some interesting results from lab studies in mice.
If you are in the UK and want to speak to one of our Cancer Information Nurses about clinical trials, you can ring them on freephone 0808 800 4040 (9am-5pm Monday-Friday). If you are outside the UK, here is a list of organisations that may be able to provide advice: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/coping-with-cancer/coping-practically/overseas/overseas-cancer-organisations
miK September 12, 2013
Dear Dr. Kat,
Thank you for the link to clinicaltrials.gov. I was questioning, because I came to trial link through an article from 2006 and it’s still up. gov link shows that it’s been going since 2009 and schedule to finish in Dec. 2013 (3 months away). It’s strange that they couldn’t get 30 people all this time? Seeing how end is so near, I think I’ll skip on this one.
But the idea is interesting, reminding me of Dr. Steinman’s research (posthumous nobel prize winner), although I don’t know how they’ll tackle recipient rejection and cancer mutations.
Along similar lines, thank you for nice write up on GcMAF; that’s how I found your blog. Sadly, it seems that stuff is taking on homeopathic proportions to cancer patients due to hype, even here in US. I wonder if follow up is in order, not necessarily by you (that’s asking too much), but with more recent data on (in)efficacy.
Roberta Somewhere September 11, 2013
As long as the “war on cancer” is based on unscientific, erroneous medical dogmas of cancer and its progression, leading to unscientific orthodox cancer treatments (read the ebook “The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn’t Want You To Know About” by Rolf Hefti)) it is little more than a farce. No surprise then, the scientific data shows that this “war” has been a profound, general failure.
celia emery September 9, 2013
When drugs companies start developing cures and not expensive treatments we will see a drop in cancer deaths. And when people are told the truth about the causes of cancer. Chemical farming and pollution for a start.