Keeping a Long-Term View of our Real-World Fight with Cancer

Keeping a Long-Term View of our Real-World Fight with Cancer

06.13.12 | By Kate Connors

Continuing on the theme of progress - and the ongoing work of researchers - in battling cancer, today I'd like to point out "Fighting Cancer: Don't Let Our Progress Slow," a column by our president and CEO John J. Castellani that the Huffington Post published yesterday.

In the column, Castellani implores policymakers to avoid short-term cost-cutting solutions that will not just stifle biomedical innovation, they will also avoid the progress that could lead to long-term healthcare cost savings.

For example, he highlights our enhanced capabilities through developments in personalized medicine research: "The breakthroughs that we have already made help to illustrate this: By treating a patient initially with a targeted therapy, we avoid the costs associated with a treatment guessing game, where a patient receives a treatment that may not lead to a positive therapeutic response. We can help to avoid complications and associated hospitalizations. And by better treating a patient now, we can hope that we won't have to treat that patient again in the future for the same condition."

He spoke about a similar issue at yesterday's conference on "Turning the Tide Against Cancer Through Sustained Medical Innovation," sponsored by the Personalized Medicine Coalition, American Association for Cancer Research, and others.

Speaking on a panel about policies that can help sustain innovation, Castellani highlighted some of the ways that our leaders can help to create an environment that is conducive to progress: "an up-to-date, robust, clear and transparent regulatory system (which we're making progress toward with the Prescription Drug User Fee Act); a vibrant scientific ecosystem that is up to date and reflects how the science is evolving; a business environment that attracts capital, and a better way to value medicines and the science itself."

He explained the last part: "If we look at value over 12-month increments, we'll never capture the value of avoiding much more costly acute care. We'll never capture the value of a longer and productive life."

They're similar messages: if we don't value innovation today - if we don't foster it, allow it to grow, and welcome the real progress that it will bring patients - we may not have it available to us in the future.

As Castellani wrote in the Huffington Post, perhaps our ability to look ahead at the challenges we'll face in the future comes from the fact that the development of the average new medicine can take 10-15 years: "It's an important way that we can improve the future of our health and the future of our economy. In a sector where a new product can take a generation to reach patients, that's just the way we think."

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