Make Funding for Cancer Research a Global Priority, Say European and American Organizations

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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 organizations say there has been a significant increase in our understanding of how cancer develops and without consistent funding, health-care organizations will be unable to capitalize on these insights to improve cancer survival rates around the world. In a time of tight health budgets, they also say 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 through to patient trials.

‘Unprecedented Era of Scientific Discovery’

Speaking at a press conference to mark the launch of the 28th EORTC–National Cancer Institute–AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Munich, Germany, 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.”

We are in an unprecedented era of scientific discovery that holds enormous promise for new advances in cancer treatment and prevention…. Failure to capitalize upon these scientific opportunities is simply not an option.
— Margaret Foti, PhD, MD(hc)

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

The EORTC and AACR declare 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.

Global Public Health Challenge

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 United States, the overall cancer death rate fell 1.5% 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 continued: “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 patients can benefit from improved treatments.”

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

Douglas Lowy, MD, Acting Director of the National Cancer Institute, concluded: “In the United States, 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 maximize the impact and leverage resources, we must ensure that collaborations among researchers, industry, and health organizations also span borders, so we can accelerate progress against cancer for all nations.” ■