Significant progress fighting cancer: Death rate has dropped 25 percent

In a new report, the American Cancer Society announced a 25% drop in cancer death rate, marking a historic low for the U.S..

Holly Campbell
Holly CampbellJanuary 9, 2017

Significant progress fighting cancer: Death rate has dropped 25 percent.

Cancers have long been one of the most devastating and complex disease areas facing patients. But thanks in part to innovative advancements in treatments and early detection, the cancer death rate in the United States has dropped 25 percent over the last two decades.

According to estimates in the Cancer Statistics 2017 report, this consistent decline over 23 years has resulted in 2.1 million fewer cancer deaths during this period than if death rates had remained at their peak.

The health care community has seen staggering innovation in the treatment, prevention and diagnosis of the more than 200 unique diseases that are considered cancer. Biopharmaceutical researchers play a critical role in this sustained progress in the fight against these diseases.

American Cancer Society research suggests that much of the decline in the overall cancer death rate is the result of steady declines in death rates among the four major cancer sites: lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. These statistics reflect areas of tremendous scientific growth, including the emergence of targeted therapies for many of the most deadly forms of cancer. In fact, in just 10 years (2003-2013), personalized medicine options for cancer patients increased more than four-fold — from 11 percent to 46 percent of treatments. Cancer treatments are on the leading edge of personalized medicine, with lung and breast cancers at the forefront.

In the last decade, we’ve seen a number of scientific advances transform the landscape of many cancers. The emergence of immunotherapy is revolutionizing the treatment of advanced melanoma. Before 2011, survival was measured in months. Research from a recent trial has demonstrated that 40 percent of patients are surviving three years or longer.  And new vaccines for the human papilloma virus that provide protection against cervical cancer have helped drop the rate of infection by 64 percent for women ages 14 to 19.

While cancer is one of the most complex and dynamic diseases for scientists, biopharmaceutical researchers remain committed to continuing the progress toward better treatments and cures for cancer. According to the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Progress Report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 13 new anticancer therapies between August 2015 and July 2016. Researchers continue to better understand the disease’s complexities, and today, there are more than 800 medicines and vaccines in clinical testing for cancer – approximately 80 percent of which are potentially the first of their kind.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine one groundbreaking new approach to treating forms of cancer, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Learn more about other recent breakthroughs in cancer therapies here.

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