TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- As the war against cancer
continues, a group representing U.S. oncologists has picked its
"Top Five" list of advances in cancer care for 2011.
Leading the list are approvals for a bevy of new, targeted drugs
for tough-to-treat malignancies, plus promising results suggesting
CT chest scans may be an early-detection screen for lung
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) this week
issued its annual report on progress against cancer. The report was
published online Dec. 5 in the
Journal of Clinical Oncology.
"The big news has been targeted drug therapy," noted Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang, head of the section of genitourinary cancer at the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas and co-executive editor of the report.
"We now have drugs that are very selective for some solid tumors. We now have [new] drugs affecting melanoma and lung cancer, which is pretty sweet," he said. "We don't know how long the responses to these drugs last -- they appear to be pretty short -- but some of them are truly dramatic."
CT-based lung cancer screening was the other big news in the
cancer field this past year, Vogelzang noted. "People who smoke
have a huge increase in lung cancer -- 40 times that of the general
population. If you stop the risk drops, but it never goes back to
However, a widely reported study published earlier this year by
the U.S. National Cancer Institute found that screening smokers and
former smokers with a CT chest scan was "dramatically better than
the chest X-ray," Vogelzang said.
According to experts at ASCO, this year's top five advances
According to Vogelzang, the take-home message for patients is
that, "cancer therapy continues to get better and better each year.
Side effects are reducing. The old story of chemotherapy is going
away -- this is no longer your grandfather's Buick -- these are
pills that make cancer a truly manageable disease, much like
Other topics in the report include: Ways to deal with
troublesome, ongoing shortages of certain chemotherapy drugs, and
the impact of health care reform might have in addressing
disparities in cancer care.
In addition, the report looked at ways to improve clinical
cancer research in the United States.
The report was developed by an 18-member editorial board made up
of leading oncologists. Only studies that significantly changed the
way a cancer is understood or had a major impact on patient care
were chosen for the report, Vogelzang noted.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the
American Cancer Society, agreed that "we are moving into a new era
of [cancer] drug development."
He explained that a better understanding the genetics of a
particular cancer now makes it possible to develop medicines that
target a key part of the tumor cell, making therapies more specific
"For example, in melanoma we are still using the same drug today that I used back in 1972," Lichtenfeld said. However, the advent of new drugs is starting to change that, he added.
"The extension of life may be modest, [but] we need to appreciate that they are real," Lichtenfeld said. "Ten years ago we started talking about making cancer a 'chronic disease' and we are starting to see that happen."
There's much more on cancer at the
U.S. National Cancer
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.