The war on cancer: 40 years later

Forty years ago today President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, allocating $1.5 billion over three years for cancer research.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has written an excellent piece on their blog about where the field has come since 1971. They write:

Forty years later, the War on Cancer can claim countless successes against one of the most resilient and recalcitrant enemies mankind has faced.

Some cancers that were once almost invariably fatal, such as pediatric leukemia, are now cured in the vast majority of cases. In kidney cancer, the five-year survival rate – the percentage of patients alive five years after diagnosis – has increased from about 50 percent in 1971 to more than 70 percent today. In colon cancer, the rate has increased from 52 to more than 66 percent over the same time period. Death rates for cancers of the breast, liver, lung, prostate, and several other organs and tissues have been declining for the past 10-20 years.

Despite all the strides over the past 40 years, cancer remains one of the biggest health challenges we face. The good news is that advances in the understanding of cancer at the basic, molecular level have positioned us to make even greater progress in the years ahead.

CIRM is playing an active role in the ongoing search for better cancer therapies. Of our disease-focused awards, cancer makes up 22% of our funding (you can see charts of our funding allocations here).

CIRM has eight awards working towards new therapies for cancers including leukemias and solid tumors such as those that form in the colon, brain and ovaries. Of those, four projects (two in leukemia and two in brain tumors) are part of our disease team programs, which all have the goal of submitting an application to the Food and Drug Administration by 2014 to begin a clinical trial. You can see a list of all our therapy development projects with links to those project descriptions in our online portfolio.

Although we can’t know in advance which of these projects will be successful, CIRM is proud to be part of the ongoing search for new cancer therapies.


6 thoughts on “The war on cancer: 40 years later

  1. No $ to continues spinal cord trials but hey there's always fun money around…unreal and pathetic…a sound business decision I'm sure?

    Four Geron execs split $600,000 in cash bonuses

    The bonuses were paid out Friday, the company said in the SEC filing.

    Geron in November said it would cut 66 jobs and halt its stem cells R&D program to concentrate on its portfolio of experimental cancer treatments. The company had been in an early-stage trial using stem cells to treat patients with acute spinal cord injuries.

  2. Scientists cure cancer, but no one takes notice
    Sun, 15 May 2011 17:05 CDT

    Canadian researchers find a simple cure for cancer, but major pharmaceutical companies are not interested.

    Researchers at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada have cured cancer last week, yet there is a little ripple in the news or in TV. It is a simple technique using very basic drug. The method employs dichloroacetate, which is currently used to treat metabolic disorders. So, there is no concern of side effects or about their long term effects.

    This drug doesn't require a patent, so anyone can employ it widely and cheaply compared to the costly cancer drugs produced by major pharmaceutical companies.

  3. Lab at Hershey Medical Center identifies a virus that could kill cancer

    Even once a drug or therapy passes through the FDA approval process,
    there’s one final step before it makes it to the general public —
    production and distribution.

    “You’ve got to get funding to bring it to the market, which involves
    getting [pharmaceutical industry] support,” Ayres said.

    And, she asked, what is the industry going to spend development costs on?

    “Something they can make money on,” she said. “These are the realities.”

    Bottom line: Even with unlimited funding, it could be another two to
    four years before Meyers injects AAV2 into the first patients.

    Until then, he’ll continue to receive the emails from desperate
    people, begging him for a cure.

    Because the virus is so simple, it’s relatively easy for scientists to
    remove its small amount of genes and replace them with human ones.

    The idea is to introduce the carrier virus into the body of a person
    who might be suffering from a genetic disorder due to a problem in
    their own body’s DNA structure.

    AAV2 virus, carrying the human genes, enters the patient’s cells and
    inserts its DNA fragment into our genes, repairing or replacing the
    broken sequence.

    Because the virus is small, simple and doesn’t easily replicate, it
    reduces the chances of something going wrong.

    Not only could it kill cancer cells, but it could be the vehicle to
    treat other genetic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease,
    Parkinson’s disease and cystic fibrosis.

    “No one’s at the point where the Food and Drug Administration has
    approved it,” Muzyczka said. “But it is getting to the point where
    people think it’s going to work.”

  4. Why so long?

    Scientists develop vaccine that attacks breast cancer in mice

    “This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response,” said study co-senior author Geert-Jan Boons, Franklin Professor of Chemistry and a researcher in the UGA Cancer Center and its Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. “It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent.”


    Army researchers develop vaccine that could cut recurrence rates
    Peoples said testing the drug on healthy women at risk for breast cancer could take decades to show results, so his team did the next-best thing. They tested healthy survivors who have beaten breast cancer but still run a risk of the disease recurring.

    For women in a control group given no treatment, the rate of cancer recurrence was 20 percent, Peoples said. Among patients given the new drug, he said, “we cut that rate in half.”

    That success rate matches that of a widely prescribed cancer drug called Herceptin, Peoples said, but while Herceptin only works for about 20 percent of patients, E-75 worked for 60 percent.

    “It’s a big deal,” Peoples said. “However, nothing’s a done deal until it’s proven in phase three” — large-scale clinical trials.

    The Army has partnered with a company called Galena Biopharma on the third phase of clinical testing, which begins early this year.

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