Cancer is a worldwide burden, and research is our best defense against it. In the past few years, research has seen a surge in collaboration and accelerated progress through projects like the Cancer Moonshot. But these diseases aren’t slowing down. The National Cancer Institute estimates the number of worldwide cancer cases is going to increase by 50% within the next two decades.
Progress through research is more important than ever in working to not only find a cure, but also in developing better diagnostic techniques and preventive measures. National Cancer Research Month this May reminds us the key in the fight against cancer lies with research.
Importance of Cancer Research
With the cancer incidence rate on the rise, research efforts are more needed than ever. The cancer death rate has been falling each year, but there is still a lot of work ahead to impact the statistics.
Cancer research goes beyond finding a cure. These efforts can also help find solutions for better prevention and diagnostic methods. It’s more than helping current patients, and can help anyone who’s at risk of developing cancer in the future.
For rare cancers like mesothelioma, clinical trials and the research efforts through projects like the Cancer Moonshot Initiative are so critical. Mesothelioma and other rare cancers often don’t get a lot of funding or as much attention as more common cancers, but the research is so needed.
Most mesothelioma patients are given a short life expectancy, and only 33% survive one year after diagnosis. Though just about 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, it’s estimated that at least 20 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with mesothelioma in their lifetime.
The National Cancer Institute estimates almost 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses this year. In their Cancer Trends Progress Report, the NCI researchers explain better preventive measures and early detection techniques need immediate attention to help change these statistics.
“There are over 100 cancers and research brings us closer to finding treatments and cures,” Dr. Raja Flores, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai, recently told MCA. “Cancer research means making an impact on a greater number of lives than what you can accomplish with an individual patient. Through research you can take care of people who you never even met. Cancer research can create a healthier world with less suffering and more joy.”
Hope for Patients
Research can completely transform the standards of patient care. Many patients receive standard cancer therapies, like chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. With advancing technologies and drug development, more patients are seeking clinical trials and emerging therapies to potentially improve their survival when conventional options aren’t effective.
Some emerging treatments, like immunotherapy, have shown promise for an array of cancers including mesothelioma. An ongoing mesothelioma clinical trial at Baylor College of Medicine is currently testing the effectiveness of immunotherapy before surgery with encouraging results so far. Though these trials of course have no guarantees, they provide hope for these patients facing a dire prognosis.
“Without research, and those people pushing the envelope for new and novel therapies, survival rates would not be rising!” Heather Von St. James, an 11-year-mesothelioma-survivor, said. “Researchers are the unsung heros of the cancer world. Everyone gives credit to the doctors, but they work hand in hand with the research arm to improve treatments to work towards a cure.”
Heather was not part of a clinical trial, but she did seek treatment for her pleural mesothelioma through an experimental procedure at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The high-risk surgery, extrapleural pneumonectomy, involved removing her lung, part of her diaphragm, and some of the surrounding area. The surgery was followed with intense chemotherapy and radiation sessions.
She was initially given just 15 months to live, and has outlived even the best case scenario. Without advancements in medicine and cancer research, experimental treatments like this wouldn’t be an option.
How to Get Involved
There are plenty of ways to get involved during National Cancer Research Month and beyond. We can all help make a difference in cancer research efforts to support patients today and in the future:
- Donate to a reputable cancer research organization.
- Call on Congress to support cancer research and oppose the proposed budget cuts to the NIH.
- Use your voice online and in your community to show your support and help raise awareness.
We can cure cancer as long as important research can continue without major setbacks. Emerging treatments and the current research being conducted have already made a difference for many patients and their families. Together, we can all keep taking steps toward a future without cancer.