Cancer death rates declined much more rapidly than cancer incidence. One possible interpretation: treatments are becoming more effective.
ATLANTA – January 4, 2012 – The American Cancer Society's annual cancer statistics report shows that between 2004 and 2008, overall cancer incidence rates declined by 0.6% per year in men and were stable in women, while cancer death rates decreased by 1.8% per year in men and by 1.6% per year in women.
Progress is slowly being made across a range of different cancers.
Death rates continue to decline for all four major cancer sites (lung, colorectum, breast, and prostate), with lung cancer accounting for almost 40% of the total decline in men and breast cancer accounting for 34% of the total decline in women.
One of the next weapons against cancer: whole genome sequencing. The hope is that anti-cancer treatments can be customized to aim at identifying and then counteracting the combination of mutations that enable each specific cancer. Multiple research efforts are each sequencing hundreds of cancer genomes. A company called Complete Genomics will sequence cancer and normal genomes of a cancer patient for $12,000 and already have hundreds of customers.
A total of about 30,000 human genomes were sequenced in 2011, an order of magnitude more than were sequenced in 2010. This is due to the very rapid rate of decline in costs of sequencing DNA. So we are just at the beginning of a huge flood of genetic sequencing data.
Since some (if not all) cancer happens due to genetic mutations the flood of genetic data ought to provide major clues on how to defeat cancer. Since each cancer has many unique mutations sorting thru them is very non-trivial. Even once more cancer-enabling mutations are identified developing treatments that target them will take years. So I'm not expecting a big short-term payoff.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2012 January 04 10:11 PM Biotech Cancer|