Cancer is caused by the unregulated growth of cells due to genetic alterations. Cancer can be a devastating disease and is seemingly indiscriminate. Due to recent advances in prevention, detection, and treatment; cancer rates have been declining over the last several decades. February is Cancer Prevention Month, so I thought I would highlight a recent report published by the American Cancer Society (Cancer Statistics, 2016) which has some good news in the fight against cancer.
I think the biggest take away from the ACS report is that the overall death rate from cancer has dropped 23% since the early 1990s, even though the incidence has remained rather stable over the same time period. Men have seen a slight decline in cancer incidence, while there has been little change in the overall rate of cancer diagnosis for women. Most notably for men, there has been a substantial reduction in prostate, colon, and lung incidence from the peak in early 1990, while melanoma and liver cancers have recently demonstrated a slight increase. Women, however, have seen an increase in uterine, liver, and thyroid cancers. Breast cancer peaked in the late 1990s and has been pretty stable since 2000, while lung cancer saw a peak in the early 2000s and is very recently showing signs of a decline.
Overall, I think there is cause for optimism, however, the reality is that cancer still is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S with more than 2 million deaths in 2012. One area that is very encouraging is a significant reduction in deaths from childhood leukemia and brain cancer. Even though the rates have remained steady or maybe slightly increased, the 5 year survival and age-standardized survival rates have decreased substantially. All of this data indicates that while there is much more to do in the fight against cancer, the more modern therapies and earlier diagnosis has led to substantial increases in lives saved.
The American Institute for Cancer Research indicates that about one-third of all cancers may be preventable through changes in diet and activity. At a minimum, the risk of a cancer diagnosis can be reduced through behavioral changes. The top three risk factors according to the American Association for Cancer Research are 1) smoking, 2) obesity, and 3) pathogens. Which means that behavioral changes can have a substantial impact on the top 2 risk factors and screening and vaccines can have a substantial impact on the third highest cancer risk factor.
Our ability to diagnose and treat cancer has improved greatly due to our increased understanding of cancer development. Through basic research efforts over the last several decades, we now have a better understanding than ever of what causes cancer, how to prevent cancer (in many cases), and how to treat cancer once it is diagnosed. In particular, therapeutics that are more effective and more targeted have allowed for the treatment of cancers that historically were unable to be treated. An example is the therapeutic antibodies that are either able to target specific cancers or those that enhance the immune response to cancer. Recent developments in improved targeting of immune cells to recognize cancers as well as Antibody Drug Conjugates will likely yield even better detection and killing of cancers in the very near future. The reductions in death rates associated with specific cancers are in part directly due to the recent developments and the latest generation of cancer therapies.
At BBI, as a custom antibody CRO, we are pleased to have the opportunity to work with many companies that are developing cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. Whether it is the development of cancer therapeutics, anti-idiotypes for clinical assessment of therapeutics, cancer diagnostics, or antibodies for research, we would be pleased to discuss your future projects and needs for polyclonal or monoclonal antibody development.