A Cure for Cancer Is Not Beyond Us

Medical innovation continues to help patients live beyond the disease, but policies that ensure access are needed.

This year’s World Cancer Day, which takes place annually on February 4 to raise awareness and to call upon governments and individuals to take action, recognizes medical advances through its ‘Not Beyond Us’ theme.

“Advances over the past year have brought effective treatment solutions closer for many cancer patients,” Joel Beetsch, Vice President. Global Patient Advocacy at Celgene, said. “In the past, people were controlled by their cancer. Today, they are living with the disease and beyond it.”

Worldwide, almost 32.5 million people diagnosed with cancer within the previous five years were alive at the end of 2012. In the United States, people diagnosed with cancer today have a 68 percent chance of living five years or longer, up from 49 percent in 1977.

That increase is due in large part to advances in cancer therapies. Several years ago, the majority of treatment options focused on using chemotherapy to destroy the cells that were growing abnormally. But now cancer researchers have started to examine the nature of cancer cell growth.

“Instead of hitting the body hard with chemotherapy or radiation, newer therapies are targeting very specific mechanisms inside specific cells inside a specific organ,” said Beetsch. “The idea of such precision medicine for cancer no longer seems beyond us.”

Although these advances are available, not everyone has equal access to cancer care, resulting in differences in survival rates among countries. In one recent study that analyzed international survival rates for 10 of the most common cancers, researchers found that patients in Germany and the United States had an 92 and 88 percent chance respectively of survival five years after a cancer diagnosis made between 2005 and 2009. This is not surprising since Germany and the United States reimburse for innovative cancer medicines immediately upon regulatory approval. Meanwhile, cancer patients in Indonesia only had a 44 percent chance during the same time period.

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As part of its mission and its dedication to corporate responsibility, Celgene is committed to ensuring access to treatment for all patients by providing copay assistance for unresourced families in the United States and helping patients navigate therapy and insurance issues through Celgene Patient Support.

“Cancer patients deserve the best treatment options that they can get,” said Chris Hansen, President of The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Newtork. “As a result of ensuring access to cancer treatments, we as a society can ensure maximizing longer, better, higher quality of life.”

With access to the latest treatment options, cancer patients can continue to work and contribute to the economy. The global economic impact of premature death and disability from cancer was estimated to be $895 billion in 2008, according to a report from the American Cancer Society.

“The value of access to care is worth billions to the global economy,” said Beetsch. “Some governments are starting to realize this, so they are allowing for better access to care.”

Celgene joins with the World Cancer Day organizers in calling for advances in global policies that provide access to cancer care and treatment for all. With continuous improvements to its treatment, a cure for cancer is not beyond us.