Make funding for cancer research a global priority, say European and US organisations

Munich, Germany: The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) are calling on policymakers and leaders throughout the world to provide robust and sustained funding for cancer research.

The two organisations say that there has been a significant increase in our understanding of how cancer develops and that without consistent funding, healthcare organisations will be unable to capitalise on these insights to improve cancer survival rates around the world. In a time of tight health budgets, they also say that it is vital that a major goal of funding for research should be to tackle the challenges of the increasing numbers of people living with cancer as populations age. This research should continue to cover all aspects of the disease from understanding how cancer starts at the molecular level all the way through to patient trials.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the launch of the 28th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Munich, Denis Lacombe, MD, MSc, Director General of the EORTC, said: “There has never been a more exciting time in cancer research. With the surge in molecular biology developments and a growing consideration for cost-benefit balance from a public health perspective, there is an increasing need to invest in cancer research and improved international partnerships to validate new targets and technologies, ensuring they provide real-world benefits to patients.”

Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR, said: “We are in an unprecedented era of scientific discovery that holds enormous promise for new advances in cancer treatment and prevention that could save lives around the world. Failure to capitalise upon these scientific opportunities is simply not an option. Now is the time for policymakers worldwide to prioritise and invest in lifesaving cancer research.”

The two organisations say that research improves survival and quality of life for people around the world through new and better ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure the 200 types of cancer.

However, despite improvements in survival rates, cancer continues to be an enormous public health challenge globally. Worldwide, there were 15.2 million new cancer cases diagnosed in 2015 alone and 8.2 million cancer deaths. Unless concerted efforts are made to address this growing problem, these numbers are expected to rise by 2035, to 24 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 14.6 million cancer deaths.

In Europe, there were 3.4 million new cases and 1.76 million deaths from cancer in 2012. Survival rates have improved substantially for many types of cancer, but improvements in survival vary between countries.

In the US, the overall cancer death rate fell 1.5 percent each year from 2003 to 2012, and the number of cancer survivors rose from about 10 million to 13.7 million during the same period.

Dr Lacombe said: “In 2015 there were nearly 600 cancer compounds in the late stages of development; new treatments account for 83% of improvements in survival, and 80% of cancer drugs in the pipeline are first-in-class medicines. However, new oncology drugs still have the lowest rate of success, as these technologies require better alignment with current molecular and technical knowledge. More resources need to be dedicated to building partnerships and infrastructures to develop these approaches so that patients can benefit from improved treatments.”

Dr Foti said: “In the US, unwavering, bipartisan support from Congress and the President’s administration, in the form of sufficient funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is vital if we are to accelerate the pace of progress against cancer for the benefit of patients and their loved ones everywhere. Unfortunately, before this past fiscal year in the US, the biomedical research community had faced more than a decade of stagnant federal investments in the NIH and NCI.”

Douglas Lowy, MD, Acting Director of the US NCI, said: “In the US, our national investment in biomedical research and advanced technologies has enabled us to increase our understanding of cancer and develop innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it. Cancer is a global health problem, and high quality cancer research is conducted in many countries. To maximise impact and leverage resources, we must ensure that collaborations among researchers, industry and health organisations also span borders, so we can accelerate progress against cancer for all nations.”

The 28th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics brings together representatives from academia, industry, and other scientific organisations from across the globe to discuss the latest innovations in drug development, target selection, and the impact of new discoveries in molecular biology. The conference will bring unique insight into the new challenges and latest developments in cancer drug development.


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