In the fifty years since President Richard Nixon passed the National Cancer Act of 1971 and launched the “war on cancer,” the United States has experienced great progress in screening for and diagnosing cancer, increasing the five-year survival rate and decreasing the death rate, and enhancing our understanding of cancer overall.
An article in AARP examines the advances and challenges of these past fifty years. Notably, National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers have tied science and research more closely to patient care. Additionally, an increased understanding of the genetics of cancer has accelerated the discovery of new treatments.
Of these new treatments, PC3I Faculty Ravi Parikh, MD, MPP, FACP, says, “Ten years ago, chemotherapy was the only treatment for most patients with advanced cancer. Now there’s been a revolution in cancer treatment.” Parikh cites immunotherapies, which work by activating the immune system and targeted therapies, which target the proteins that control how cancer cells grow and spread.
Parikh shares that in addition to these new treatment options, “our methods of controlling your chemotherapy side effects are a lot better than 10 to 15 years ago. It’s one of the untold successes of the war on cancer.”
Improving care delivery is just as critical to our success in the war on cancer. The Penn Center for Cancer Care Innovation (PC3I) works to improve the lived experiences of patients with cancer, bridge the gap between research and practice, and ensure these wins are shared equitably.
Other notable advances and challenges in the past fifty years’ of cancer care can be found on AARP.
Dr. Christine Edmonds and PC3I Faculty Dr. Lola Fayanju share several ways in which Black women experience socioeconomic barriers and systemic biases that impact breast cancer treatment and survival.
Researchers from the Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process (PROSPR) Consortium are working to eliminate disparities in uptake of lung cancer screening.
A study looking at privately insured patients with cancer found that spending was higher for those having surgery at NCI cancer centers than at community hospitals.