Conquering Cancer: Progressive but Slow

Conquering Cancer: Progressive but Slow

AACR Cancer Progress Report 2011

Today we know that cancer, which is in fact not one disease but more than 200 different diseases, is much more complex than what could have been imagined in 1971 when the United States Congress passed the National Cancer Act. Fortunately, investments in cancer and biomedical research, in particular those supported during the past four decades by public funds through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), have accelerated the pace of discovery and the development of new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat cancer in all age groups. The results of these investments are cures for some patients with certain types of cancer and higher quality, longer lives for those patients whose cancers we cannot yet prevent or control.

Between 1990 and 2007, death rates in the U.S. for all cancers combined decreased by 22% for men and 14% for women, resulting in 898,000 fewer deaths from the disease during this time period. Today, more than 68% of adults are living 5 or more years after initial diagnosis, up from 50% in 1975; and the 5-year survival rate for all childhood cancers combined is 80% vs. 52% in 1975.

Because of the enormous complexity of cancer, progress against certain cancers has been difficult. Pancreatic, brain, and lung cancers still represent major killers–but new insights into their function and control at the molecular level are informing the development of a new generation of specific diagnostic and treatment strategies that hold promise for increased clinical efficacy and survival.

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