Making Progress Against Cancer
The NYT has a great story in two parts (here and here) that provides a tantalizing glimpse into the future of cancer treatment. Scientists and doctors are designing drugs that target specific genes in order to directly alter cancerous cells, as opposed to more traditional approaches like chemotherapy and radiation treatment which are essentially brute-force attacks that damage the patient as much as the cancer.
Targeted therapy for cancer is not brand new, but it’s nascent compared to the more traditional therapies. It is a long and slow process to determine, develop, test, and finally administer the specific drug needed for a specific cancer. In fact it’s a process that takes years, designed for patients who often only have months to live. The NYT articles on this process are exciting but also frustrating to read; but results like this, showing dramatic tumor reduction in just 15 days, are simply amazing.
FuturePundit has more good news on the cancer front:
Death Rate Dropping From Cancer: Some reports have cited limited improvement in death rates as evidence that the "war on cancer", which was initiated in 1971, has failed. Many of these analyses fail to account for the dominant and dramatic increase in cancer death rates due to tobacco-related cancers in the latter part of the 20th century. [...] For all cancers combined, death rates (per 100,000) in men increased from 249.3 in 1970 to 279.8 in 1990, and then decreased to 221.1 in 2006, yielding a relative decline of 21% from 1990 (peak year) and a drop of 11% since 1970 (baseline year). Similarly, the death rate from all-cancers combined in women increased from 163.0 in 1970 to 175.3 in 1991, and then decreased to 153.7 in 2006, a relative decline of 12% and 6% from the 1991 (peak year) and 1970 rates, respectively.
It’s slow progress, but it’s progress.