The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently released its cancer estimates for 2014. According to the report, an estimated 1.66 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2014. Slightly more than half of those cases — about 51% — are projected to be in men.
The ACS also projects that the three most common types of new cancer will be breast cancer (235,030 cases), prostate cancer (233,000 cases) and lung cancer (224,210 cases).
While the number of people who may be diagnosed with cancer in 2014 is sobering, the good news is that cancer care has changed a great deal over the last few years.
According to Dr. Matthias Weiss, Marshfield Clinic medical oncologist-hematologist, Oncology Research director and Community Clinic Oncology Program principal investigator, basic science-driven knowledge advances are promising to fundamentally change cancer care.
“Over the last 10 years, 80% of all practice-changing scientific advances in medicine occurred in the field of hematology-oncology. We are just at the beginning of an era of rapidly changing oncology care,” said Weiss.
“We are now expanding knowledge of the molecular basis of what is causing cancer. We are learning more at the molecular, cell level, so we are increasingly able to determine what caused the cancer and what drives its growth. When we can determine that root cause and what drives that growth, we can identify specific treatments based on the particular tumor identified on the cellular level.
“For an example, we have identified targets for treatment of breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer, among others. Medications specifically developed to take advantage of these targets have now been proven through large national clinical trials to achieve better cancer control and cure rates,” he said.
The key for the future will lie in looking at the cellular level to determine what drives the tumor growth and developing targeted therapies.
Weiss said a key factor that will be extremely important to successfully improve cancer treatments will be patient participation and engagement in clinical trials. Last year, more than 500 Marshfield Clinic patients participated in national clinical trials made available to them at Marshfield Clinic oncology-care sites.
“Marshfield Clinic believes it is vitally important to provide the opportunity to offer our patients access to these trials. Over the past 30 years, more than 9,000 clinic patients living in the communities we serve have participated in these national studies. Participation in national studies benefits everyone, as it contributes to scientific progress for all, not just Marshfield Clinic patients,” said Weiss.
“We understand we are at the beginning of a major