Developing Cures for Cancer

Conversations: Collaboration is key to future of caring for patients with cancer

10.29.13 | By John Castellani

A survey commissioned earlier this year by PhRMA shows 86 percent of Americans believe developing cures for more forms of cancer should be one of the top national health priorities. Concerns about this disease are certainly appropriate – more than one million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year and half of all people in this country will receive a diagnosis of some form of cancer in their lifetime.

As sobering as these statistics are, significant progress has been made in the fight against cancer. In fact, cancer deaths in the U.S. have fallen by 20 percent since 1990, and there are nearly 1,000 medicines currently in development various forms of the disease. Still, we have a long road ahead, and there is much more to be done to ensure patients receive effective and quality care as industry, government, and other stakeholders continue to work toward a cure.

We wanted to hear what others thought about the future of cancer care, so we asked the following for this week’s “Conversations” Forum question:

How can we work together to achieve a future in which we’re beating cancer by providing care that is effective, affordable, high quality and patient-centered? 

All of the contributors agree that greater collaboration between stakeholders is an essential component to success in fighting the disease. 

Edward Abrahams, president of the Personalized Medicine Coalition, says that the spirit of collaboration is essential to advance the complex cancer research and care ecosystem, which is the idea behind PMC’s Turning the Tide Against Cancer initiative. As Edward says, “we owe it to patients” to make the most of the research opportunities to find new, innovative and personalized cancer treatments. 

Ellen Sigal, chairperson and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, highlights the organization’s Lung Cancer Master Protocol as an example of the type of collaborative approach that can result in successful treatments. The project brings together the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the biopharmaceutical industry and academic researchers to develop and test different lung cancer drugs to determine the way individuals respond to various treatments. According to Ellen, The Lung Cancer Master Protocol could “increase efficiency, reduce costs, and most importantly, improve patients’ lives.”

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, suggests a total rethinking of the cancer care model. Taking into account the needs of the patient as well as the long- and short-term impacts of different care options, Len writes, “We must think along several paths simultaneously, coordinate our efforts, and create a cohesive model that does not exist today.”

In addition, M2Gen CEO Dr. William Dalton suggests that the only way to achieve effective, affordable, patient-centered cancer care is through an evidence-based health system. To achieve such a system, engagement and collaboration by as many stakeholders as possible, including researchers, clinicians, administrators and patients is required. Bill points to the Moffitt Cancer Center's Total Cancer Care approach as a model that could hold significant promise if applied on a larger scale. 

Thank you to all who contributed to this week’s Conversations question, and I encourage you to join the conversation by providing your own thoughts on this important topic in the comments section.



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