Although there often is controversy over the impact of new cancer drugs on patients’ overall survival, there can be little argument over the broad improvements that have flowed from more than four decades of investment in oncology research.
The statistics that accompany our story, “New Blood Cancer Landscape Taking Shape,” illustrate the truly remarkable gains that have been made for patients with hematologic malignancies. The 5-year survival rate has nearly doubled in some tumor types since 1975-1977, with the most dramatic improvements evident since 2004.
Now it seems we are in the midst of a new age of discovery in the blood cancer field. The molecular characterization of blood cancers has opened the door to a bounty of potential new targets. In recent months, we’ve heard promising data about many new agents. Undoubtedly, the next step will be to determine the appropriate combinations and sequencing to make the best use of these drugs. For inspiration about such gains, we can look toward the accomplishments of Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, a Giants of Cancer Care award winner whom we profile in this issue. Dr Anderson is one of the chief architects of therapies that have transformed multiple myeloma from an incurable— even untreatable—disease into a manageable chronic malignancy. When it comes to the future, there is more reason for hope than there has been in several years that Congress will finally realize the importance of investing in cancer research. The devastating budget cuts made through sequestration are on the verge of being reversed, meaning the restoration of funds for the National Institutes of Health and other nondefense programs.
The American Society of Hematology, along with other oncology organizations, has applauded these budgetary developments while emphasizing that a true increase in spending on biomedical research and public health programs is needed. We couldn’t agree more.