January 17, 2007
Total US Cancer Deaths Decline 2nd Year In Row

Not only did the rate of cancer death per 100,000 go down. But the total number of people who died from cancer in the United States went down in 2003 and 2004.

Fewer people died of cancer in 2004 than in 2003, marking the second consecutive year that cancer deaths have declined in the United States, a new American Cancer Society report shows. According to Cancer Statistics 2007, there were 3,014 fewer cancer deaths in 2004 compared to the previous year. The report is published in the latest issue of the ACS journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

That number is much higher than the drop of 369 deaths reported between 2003 and 2002. And that suggests the trend is more than just a statistical blip, experts say.

A decline in deaths from colorectal cancer caused about a third of the total decline. Part of the decline was due to wider use of colonoscopy to remove polyps and catch cancer sooner. But new drugs also are driving down the death rate from colorectal cancer.

Improved treatment has also played a part in lowering the death rate from colorectal cancer, Dr. Neugut said. “There was a revolution in treatment between 1998 and 2000, and revolution is a mild word,” he said. “We went from having one drug to having six or seven good drugs. The cure and survival rates have increased dramatically as a result. The cost of care has also gone up, but you get what you pay for.”

The toal number of cancer deaths declined in spite of both an aging population and a growing population.

The death rate from cancer has been falling by slightly less than 1 percent a year since 1991, but until 2003 the actual number of deaths kept rising because the population was growing and aging. Then, in 2003, the cumulative drop in death rates finally became large enough to outpace aging and population growth.

Cancer deaths can be driven down further by vaccines against viral causes of cancer and antibiotics against bacterial causes. The new Gardasil vaccine against human papilloma virus will lower the incidence of cervical cancer. Also, vaccines against hepatitis B can lower the incidence of liver cancer. Wider testing for the helicobacter pylori bacteria infections of the stomach could lead more to take antibiotics to cure it. That would lower the incidence of stomach cancer. Identification of more pathogenic causes of cancer will lead to the development of still more ways to prevent cancer.

The percentage decline in the cancer death rate has increased in recent years.

In 2003 and 2004, the cancer death rate declined by about 2 percent each year -- more than offsetting the effects of aging and population growth.

We are goign to witness an acceleration in the decline of the cancer death rate. Combinations of anti-angiogenesis factors to stop blood vessel growth in tumors will stop some cancers. Immune approaches such as monoclonal antibodies carrying toxins will get better.

We are also going to see some big successes with the use of stem cells against cancer. A stem cell treatment was used to locally activate chemo agents mostly at tumor sites and this cured all treated mice of neuroblastoma cancer.

Researchers at City of Hope and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital may have found a way to treat cancers that have spread throughout the body more effectively. They used modified neural stem cells to activate and concentrate chemotherapeutic drugs predominately at tumor sites, so that normal tissue surrounding the tumor and throughout the body remain relatively unharmed.

The neural stem cells are attracted to compounds that tumours secret. Possibly the compounds which attract the neural stem cells are angiogenesis compounds that stimulate blood vessel growth. Or perhaps the damaged nature of cancer cells cause them to secrete lots of free radical compounds that signal damage which stem cells rush in to repair.

Most chemotherapy drugs affect both normal and cancerous tissue, which is why they also are toxic to naturally fast-growing cells in the body such as hair follicles and intestinal cells. Aboody and her colleagues have developed a two-part system to infiltrate metastatic tumor sites, and then activate a chemotherapeutic drug, thereby localizing the drug's effects to the tumor cells.

The technique takes advantage of the tendency for invasive tumors to attract neural stem cells. The researchers injected modified neural stem/progenitor cells into immunosuppressed mice that had been given neuroblastoma cells, which then formed tumors. After waiting a few days to allow the stem cells to migrate to the tumors, researchers administered a precursor-drug. When it reached the stem cells, the drug interacted with an enzyme the stem cells expressed, and was converted into an active drug that kills surrounding tumor cells. The precursor-drugs were administered for two weeks, then after a two-week break, a second round of stem/progenitor cells and drugs were administered.

One hundred percent of the neuroblastoma mice appeared healthy and tumor-free at six months. Without treatment, all the neuroblastoma mice died within two-and-a-half months.

The results hold promise for treating solid tumors that metastasize including neuroblastoma, which represents 6 percent to 10 percent of all childhood cancers worldwide, with higher proportions in children under 2 years of age.

Cancer is not an unsolvable problem. To study and develop treatments for cancer scientists are getting far more powerful tools. Nanotechnologies such as microfluidics are going to accelerate the rate of progress of biomedical research by orders of magnitude. If you do not get cancer in the next 20 years you aren't going to die from it. Our tools are going to become far more powerful than the disease.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 January 17 10:12 PM  Biotech Cancer

Ned said at January 18, 2007 11:15 AM:

The decrease is especially impressive in view of the aging US population. Most of the gains have not come from therapeutic advances but from prevention and early diagnosis - smoking cessation (which will also reduce cardiovascular mortality), Pap smears, colonoscopy, mammograms, PSA testing, etc. A lot of this is low-hanging fruit that'd just now being picked, but the results are still gratifying. Future therapeutic improvements (stem cells, genetic manipulation, new tumor-busting drugs, etc.) will only make the picture even brighter. I'm not so confident that we'll have a "cure" for cancer in twenty years or so - the disease is still too subtle for that degree of optimism - but I do believe that we'll being doing a lot better even than we're doing today. Remember that just 100 years ago, diseases such as tuberculosis, pernicious anemia, type I diabetes and pneumococcal pneumonia looked just as hopeless as some type of cancer do today. Now they're easily treated. The same thing will happen to cancer eventually.

morpheus said at January 18, 2007 11:58 AM:

cancer could and shuold have been cured, at least 20 years ago,

3000less people died from it last year?,

its like telling a cancer patient u know u gonna live an extra 3 minutes, thats couse of the billions

and 50 years of cancer research,

it never stops to amaze how scientist, and reserchers can be soo retarded close minded tunel vision people

here is what Eistein had to say about that:)

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. "
- A.Einstein -

Randall Parker said at January 18, 2007 6:20 PM:


For non-smokers the biggest prevention gain left to get is probably from a higher intake of vitamin D. Other things to do: Cut back on red meat, eat more fruits and vegetables. Also, read my Aging Diet Cancer Studies category archive.

People are resistant to dietary changes. Some will follow the best scientific advice on risk reduction. But most won't. Though I can see genetically engineered foods lowering risks eventually.

Early detection: We can do much better with early detection using nanosensor materials. Look at the way that stem cells concentrate at tumors. If we could catch cancers years earlier and remove them we'd gain a lot. But there's one problem: We are full of little cancers that have not mutated to release angiogenesis compounds. So they are stuck at very small sizes.


You are both rude and ignorant.

Peter said at January 18, 2007 9:54 PM:

One thing I have not seen mentioned and that may have contributed modestly to the decline is the fortification of grain products with folate in 1998. Folic acid is very effective in reducing colon cancer risk, but the effect does not become significant for at least 5 years. It really starts to show at 10. In the nurses heath study, the risk reduction in the highest folate group was 10% at 5 years, 20 at 10, and an astounding 75 percent at 15 years.


Since colon cancer accounted for a good part of the reduction in cancer death, and fortification was about 8 1/2 years ago, I wonder if this is having an effect (average folate levels in blood roughly doubled after fortification)

Next we should supplement vitamin D3 in all dairy products (not the inferior D2 used now). Talk about bang for the heath care buck!

Tj Green said at January 20, 2007 10:50 AM:

Mitochondria activate cell death(apoptosis). Cancer cells switch off mitochondria,and by using glycolysis as an alternative energy supply,cancer cells become immortal. Dichloroacetate might be a cure for all cancers,by switching the mitochondria back on,and therefore killing the cancer cell. It seems strange that the mitochondria has the ability to destroy damaged cells.

Randall Parker said at January 20, 2007 12:13 PM:


You are the second person in as many days to mention some recent research on reactivation of mitochondria as a way to get cancer cells to commit suicide. Where'd you read this?

Tj Green said at January 21, 2007 4:34 PM:

Randall, I read it in the Newscientist(have forwarded the article on to you). The research has been done at the university of Alberta,Edmonton by Evangelos Michelakis.

cancer man said at January 21, 2007 7:53 PM:

I heard that they are expecting an *increase* in cancer deaths next year due to demographics. I think the media should focus on per 100,000 deaths so that real success is measured correctly.

I disagree with Randall on his timeline. We don't know the death rate decline in 2006, nor will we for a couple of years. Yet the drop will continue to grow.

But I think we are 5-10 years away from all cancers being manageable, not 20 years.

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