In recent decades, substantial progress has been made in the fight against cancer. Since peaking in the 1990s, cancer death rates have declined 26 percent, leading to more than 2.3 million cancer deaths avoided. Accordingly, rates of cancer survivorship continue to rise. The number of cancer survivors living in the United States has increased from three million in 1971 to 15.5 million as of January 1, 2016. Approximately 73 percent of survival gains in cancer are attributable to new medicines. Between 1988 and 2000, treatment advances in cancer have saved 23 million years of life and added $1.9 trillion to society based on improved productivity, extended life and other factors. And, since 1975, the chances that a cancer patient will live five years or more have increased by 41 percent across all cancers.
Much of this progress is due, in part, to advances in molecular and genomic research that have revealed the unique complexities of cancer and changed our understanding of the disease. Today, scientists recognize that no two cancers are alike; cancer is far more complex and varied. Just as each person’s genetic material is unique to them, every patient’s cancer is impacted and driven by a variety of unique factors. The condition broadly referred to as cancer is in fact a group of hundreds of different diseases.
These advances have expanded our knowledge of how cancer develops and how to target medicines for specific cancer types, which has resulted in new, more effective therapies for patients.