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Wins in War on Cancer Highlighted in New Report

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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Sept. 12, 2012 -- Seven-year-old Brooke Mulford and her family just returned to their Salisbury, Md., home after an action-packed West Coast tour, which included visits to Disneyland, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo.

Brooke has visited the Magic Kingdom many times over the years, but this trip was even more special than previous ones (and not just because she loves Space Mountain). The family was celebrating Brooke’s three-year anniversary of being free from an aggressive form of cancer known as neuroblastoma.

Thanks to participation in a clinical trial, Brooke is doing much better today than anyone could have hoped. Her story is one that puts a face on some of the progress made in the fight against cancer. The 2012 American Association for Cancer Research Progress Report highlights stories of survivors, including Brooke, as well as some of the challenges facing researchers. The report will also be published in Clinical Cancer Research.

Lots of New Cancer Drugs, More Survivors

According to the new report, 2012 was a big year for cancer researchers, patients, and survivors. The past 12 months have ushered in a new drug for precancerous skin lesions, eight new drugs for several types of cancers (including two new classes of drugs), and four new uses of approved cancer drugs.

“It is an exciting time for oncology,” says Anna Barker, PhD, one of the authors of the new AACR report. “Acceleration in progress is exponential and we can’t predict what will happen from week to week.”

Just last week, the FDA approved Pfizer's Bosulif for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a type of leukemia more commonly seen in adults.

The number of cancer survivors like Brooke continues to rise every year. There are about 13.7 million cancer survivors in the U.S., the report states.

This is a “new day for cancer patients,” says Barker. “It’s a culmination of a decade’s worth of work.”

She cites the decoding of the human genome as a watershed accomplishment. “We now use that information to tailor treatment.”

This is the type of information that may help patients like Brooke in the future. While Brooke is cancer-free, she still has many issues related to her treatment, including vision and dental problems, and permanent hair loss. She has tests every six months since completing treatment in April 2010.

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.

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