The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently released its cancer estimates for 2014.
According to the report, an estimated 1,665,450 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2014.
Slightly more than half of those cases – about 51 percent – 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 and hematologist, oncology research director, CCOP principal investigator, basic science-driven knowledge advances are promising to fundamentally change cancer care.
“Over the last 10 years, 80 percent 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,” Dr. Weiss said.
“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 (Her2), lung cancer (ALK, EGFR) and colon cancer (KRAS) 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. 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,” Dr. Weiss said.
“We understand we are at the beginning of a major expansion as it concerns understanding the molecular basis of cancer,” he said. “As a result, the National Cancer Institute has focused their clinical trial program to evaluate the benefit of treatment that targets specific molecular abnormalities. Oncologists and scientists are very excited about these treatment interventions to significantly improve cancer care outcomes.”
“In order to optimize our ability to offer these trials to patients living in the communities we serve, Marshfield Clinic has engaged in two major initiatives in the last two months.”
The Clinic will be initiating a program where specialized oncology nurses will communicate with patients at the time of initial diagnosis (or suspected diagnosis) of cancer. This nurse will be available to patients and their families to help them coordinate tests, visits with specialists, and review with research teams the opportunities for participating in molecularly targeted clinical trials.
Marshfield Clinic has applied for the Wisconsin National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (WiNCORP), collaborating with Gundersen Health Systems (La Crosse) and Saint Vincent Regional Cancer Center (Green Bay), forming the largest oncology clinical trial program in Wisconsin.
“As result of this collaboration, we hope to facilitate access to NCI-sponsored clinical trials across most of the state of Wisconsin,” Dr. Weiss said. “It will be critical to provide access to these trials to patients at the site where they receive their oncology care. At Marshfield Clinic, we have a system that will allow us to offer these trials to patients at the six major sites where Marshfield Clinic oncology care is offered – including the Minocqua Center and Marshfield Clinic at James Beck Cancer Center in Rhinelander.
“Through this initiative we are able to bring state of the art NCI clinical trials to communities that typically would not have access as they are usually only available at much larger academic centers in major cities. More research will provide promising new treatments much sooner and that is even more important today – when we have been able to identify hopeful agents to treat disease at its source using molecular targeted therapies,” Dr. Weiss said.
For more information about Marshfield Clinic cancer care and research, visit the website at www.marshfieldclinic.org.