Cancer Deaths Continue to Drop; New Innovations Transform Treatment Landscape

Jan 23, 2018

According to MassBio’s 2017 Industry Snapshot, oncology continues to be the most frequently researched therapeutic area for biopharma companies headquartered in Massachusetts (34% of all new treatments in development by Massachusetts headquartered companies.) And it’s paying off. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen massive advancements in the treatment landscape for cancer, resulting in a steadily declining cancer mortality rate in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, 2015 marked a 26% decline in cancer deaths for men and women combined since 1991. That’s 2.4 million fewer deaths in 2015 than we would have seen 24 years before. Although part of this reduction is due to a decline in smoking, the American Cancer Society also credits the decreasing mortality rate to advances in early detection and treatment.

In 2017, the FDA approved 46 new drugs, including 16 for oncology and 11 for hematology, often used to treat blood cancer. This doesn’t include the first two gene therapies ever approved in the U.S., the first from Novartis and the second Gilead Sciences, both of which extract and re-engineer patient’s cells to fight cancer. People are using the word cure to describe these breakthroughs – a word we’ve never associated with cancer until now.

Although we’ve seen incredible progress, there still is much work to be done. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 1,735,350 new cancer cases (more than 4,700 each day) and 609,640 deaths from cancer in the U.S. in 2018. Its latest report, Cancer Statistics, 2018, found:

  • The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.7% for men and 37.6% for women, which is a little more than 1 in 3.
  • The most common causes of cancer death continue to be lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers in men and lung, breast, and colorectal cancers in women.
  • Cancer is the second most common cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years in the US, after accidents.
  • In 2018, an estimated 10,590 children in this age group will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,180 will die from it. Leukemia accounts for almost a third (29%) of all childhood cancers.

Although these stats are disheartening, it’s important to remember that we’re just now reaching the cutting edge of science – with cell and gene therapies, and new immunology drugs showing potential to eradicate cancer. With the FDA’s Oncology Center for Excellence promising expedited development of oncology and hematology drugs, and Massachusetts-based biopharma companies more committed to fighting cancer than ever, we’re unlikely to see innovation slow down. 

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