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Wins in War on Cancer Highlighted in New Report

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Lots of New Cancer Drugs, More Survivors continued...

Her mom, Amy, hopes that a more personalized, targeted approach to cancer treatment could help limit side effects and help choose treatments that are more likely to work based on a tumor’s genetic makeup.

"I hope they can personalize treatment as opposed to just hitting it with everything possible,” Amy says.

We are getting there, Baxter says. “In the next five to 10 years, we will see some real change in how patients are diagnosed and treated, as well as how we prevent cancer by changing lifestyles.”

Fully 30% of cancer deaths are related to excess weight and lack of regular physical activity, according to the new report.

Looming Budget Cuts Threaten Progress

Challenges remain, including how to fund cancer research in a time of financial cutbacks, as well as how to manage all of the new genomic data. “It’s a data tsunami,” Baxter says. “We need to figure out how you find those pathways that will be critical for cancer.”

“It is a good news story,” agrees Frank McCormick, PhD. He is the AACR president and the director of the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center. “There has been a renaissance in interest in immunotherapy, which has had a huge impact on refocusing the field,” he says. Immunotherapy teaches our body’s own immune system to recognize cancer and launch an attack on it. Brooke’s clinical trial involved immunotherapy.

The main challenges are shrinking budgets. Cuts are slated to take place starting Jan. 2, 2013, if Congress doesn’t find a suitable solution to the federal budget deficit. “This is a bad time to pull back,” he says.

There have been tremendous strides in treating melanoma skin cancer and in lung cancer, McCormick says. “There have been general increases in survival for breast and several other cancers in the last several years, but some cancers are tough nuts to crack, such as pancreatic cancer.”

Melanie A. Nix of University Park, Md., is a four-year breast cancer survivor who embodies this progress. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38 just as she was planning to have a preventive breast-removal surgery to lower her risk of developing the cancer.

Nix, a mom and software executive, has a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, and she had options that weren’t there for her other family members. “In my family, breast cancer is genetic, and there some things we can try to do --  if not prevent --  at least reduce our risk for developing breast cancer.”

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