By Archana Akalkotkar
Cancer is a battle no one chooses to fight. Cancer plays no favorites. It may attack the young or the aged, the healthy or the weak, and the rich or the poor. In 2012, the estimated deaths from cancer were around 8.2 million worldwide, and there are approximately 32.6 million people living with cancer (within 5 years of diagnosis). Out of 8.2 million, around 4 million people died prematurely (ages 30 to 69 years). The global burden of cancer is projected to increase 75% by 2030 if this urgent need in cancer control is not answered. Founded in 1933, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization, is committed to reducing the global cancer burden and uniting the global cancer community. February 4 is marked as World Cancer Day (WCD) as a part of an initiative by UICC. WCD aims to raise awareness of cancer and develop strategies to effectively prevent, detect, and treat many forms of cancer. The theme for their three-year campaign (2016–2018) is “We can. I can.” to explore how everyone as a collective or as an individual can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer.
UICC developed the World Cancer Declaration in 2008, which targets reducing the growing cancer crisis on a global scale. As a scientist, we are aware of the conventional therapies that are used for cancer treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiation therapy. The latest buzz for cancer treatment is cancer immunotherapy. Robert Bell has shared very useful information on cancer immunotherapies in his previous online blogs. To work in the field of cancer research is always challenging and exciting. It is always fascinating to see how cancer therapies have evolved. I worked for four years in a research lab developing immunotherapy against prostate cancer using novel drug delivery methods. Provenge is the first and only FDA approved immunotherapy for advanced prostate cancer. But the estimated treatment cost is around $100,000, as of 2014. Such skyrocketing price for cancer treatments makes them unaffordable in developing countries. Hence one of the strategies to reduce the global cancer burden will be cost-effectiveness of these cancer treatments.
There are various other factors that would help us reduce the global cancer burden. Some of them include reducing exposure to cancer risk factors, universal human papillomavirus and hepatitis B virus vaccination, universal access to screening and early detection for cancer, and improvement of education and training to healthcare professionals. The road to successful reduction in the global cancer burden is long and time-consuming, but the benefits at the end would save millions of lives.