In Brief

Is the war on cancer being won?

Institute of Cancer Research says public is unaware of progress being made

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The hunt for a cure for cancer risks overshadowing advances that have been made in allowing suffers of the disease to live longer, say experts.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) says scientists should focus on helping people with cancer, rather than solely concentrating on the “holy grail” of finding a cure.

The organisation has called for more emphasis on drugs that prevent cancer from evolving within a patient, giving those with advanced forms of the disease a “much longer and better life”. 

The Times reports that recent progress means that “the cancer battle is being won”, however, this message is not cutting through with the public.

A survey for the ICR found that less than one-third of people think cancer can be controlled long term, even though survival times for those diagnosed have doubled in a decade and their quality of life is improving. The average patient now lives more than 10 years after diagnosis, turning it into a manageable disease, says The Guardian.

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Chief executive of the ICR, Prof Paul Workman, said: “This is a message of hope. The figures are already much brighter than they were before and we need to get everyone to understand that.

“People in research and healthcare professionals need to get the message out that cure rates are improving, ten-year survival has doubled, and even where patients have advanced cancer that is not curable they can have quality of life for many years.”

Dr Olivia Rossanese, head of biology at ICR’s cancer therapeutics centre, told Sky News: “Hearing that you're cured is what every patient wants to hear, but unfortunately that's not the clinical reality for lots of patients.

“Switching the conversation to ‘we understand a little bit about how you’re going to respond and we understand that resistance can happen, but we know how to treat that resistance’ - that turns it into this manageable disease.”

An NHS spoksperson said that a record 2.2m cancer checks were carried out last year, adding: “Your chance of getting a quick diagnosis and treatment is among the highest it has ever been, which is one reason why cancer survival in England is at an all-time high.”

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