Cancer is Becoming a Chronic Disease, Needing More Clinical Research

 Michael Sydes
  Jun 22, 2018

Cancer is responsible for nearly 1 in 6 deaths globally - the second leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States alone, 1 out of 2 men, and 1 out of 3 women, will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

For the 20 million cancer survivors who are alive today, who have been successfully treated with combinations of radiation, chemotherapy or surgery, many will not experience a recurrence of their disease, and are effectively cured. But there is an increasing number of cancer patients who live with advanced or metastatic cancers. And while they may never be cured of cancer, they may live for years or decades with cancer. For these patients, like people who live with chronic kidney disease or diabetes, cancer is a chronic disease that must be managed over time.

Dr Lee Schwartzberg, Executive Director of the West Cancer Center (WCC) - a leading cancer research and treatment practice - and oncology scientific lead at George Clinical, says “For patients living with cancer, the goals of cancer treatment are similar to treatments for many other chronic disease, and that is to prolong a person’s life, improve their quality of life, reduce the impact of cancer, and hopefully have minimal significant side effects of treatment”.

A greater understanding of the biology of tumours has helped drive improvements in cancer therapies. Advanced cancer can now be treated with immunotherapies and ‘precision medicine’, the idea of treating each patient with the right drug at the right time, and using a patient’s own immune system to help fight the cancer. Basket studies are the newest approach in testing cancer therapies. They focus on a tumor’s single gene mutation, regardless of the type, making a drug focused on a single genetic mutation effective across multiple types of cancer. In other words: doctors match drugs to a tumour's weak spot. Unlike traditional clinical trials, which test cancer treatments according to the type of disease - like breast or lung cancer - basket trials use molecular technology to offer new therapies to patients and can increase the number of patients who can receive certain drugs. Dr. Lee Schwartzberg, oncology scientific lead at George Clinical, says “The field of precision oncology has the potential to benefit many more cancer patients than traditional clinical trials, and basket trials are generating firm evidence supporting the use of targeted drugs for tumours”.

Only two decades ago, lung cancer was considered untreatable by much of the medical community. Today it is one of the cancers at the forefront of innovative immunotherapy research, with new treatments that have minimal impact on daily life. Another example has been seen in metastatic malignant melanoma, a highly fatal cancer. New, groundbreaking immunotherapies mean more patients with melanoma are surviving longer. It too, is becoming more like a chronic disease.

There are other factors that have contributed to the ‘chronic diseasification’ of cancer, like greater public awareness of symptoms, screening programs, and early detection. But research into more effective detection and treatment is key. Liquid biopsies - blood tests that can detect tumours very early, potentially before symptoms appear - are the next goal for precision medicine researchers, as well as drugs to target specific cancer cells.

“In as little as a decade, we could see close to ten percent of the population living with cancer”, says Dr Schwartzberg. “More and more cancer patients are surviving for years beyond their diagnosis, they are living normal lives, and the challenge is to effectively treat them long-term. Innovative treatments mean cancer is increasingly becoming a chronic disease, and future challenges will include improved maintenance treatments, for greater quality of patient life”.

The importance of clinical research and clinical trials in Oncology is becoming increasingly higher. With more of the population treating and living with cancer, the approach has shifted from solely targeting the curing of cancer, to also finding ways to treat patients and increase the quality and length of patients’ lives while treatments occur.

George Clinical is a leading independent Asia-Pacific based clinical research organisation (CRO) with global capabilities differentiated by scientific leadership, innovation and extensive investigator networks. With staff operating in 13 countries, George Clinical provides the full range of clinical trial services to biopharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostic customers, for all trial phases, registration and post-marketing trials. George Clinical combines scientific and clinical leadership with expert trial delivery capability to create a distinctive world class service.

Cancer is Becoming a Chronic Disease, Needing More Clinical Research

Michael Sydes

Michael Sydes is Business and Marketing Manager for George Clinical, a leading independent Asia-Pacific based clinical research organisation (CRO) with global capabilities differentiated by scientific leadership, innovation and extensive investigator networks. With staff operating in 13 countries, George Clinical provides the full range of clinical trial services to biopharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostic customers, for all trial phases, registration and post-marketing trials. George Clinical combines scientific and clinical leadership with expert trial delivery capability to create a distinctive world class service.

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