A Cure for Cancer Is Not Beyond Us

Medical innovation continues to help patients live beyond their cancer diagnosis, but there is still a growing need for policies that improve access to life saving medicines to ensure survival rates are maintained.

05.06.2015   |   12:21 BST

“Advances over the past year have brought effective treatment solutions closer for many cancer patients,” Joel Beetsch, Vice President. Global Patient Advocacy at Celgene, said. “In the past, people were controlled by their cancer. Today, they are living with the disease and beyond it.”

In England, more than 250,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year, with around 1.8 million people living with and beyond their diagnosis.1 Ten-year survival rates for cancer overall have also doubled in the last 40 years in England and Wales, with half of those diagnosed with cancer during 2010-2011, predicted to survive their disease for at least ten years.2

This increase is due in large part to advances in cancer therapies. Several years ago, the majority of treatment options focused on using chemotherapy to destroy the cells that were growing abnormally, but now cancer researchers have started to examine the nature of cancer cell growth.

“Instead of hitting the body hard with chemotherapy or radiation, newer therapies are targeting very specific mechanisms inside specific cells inside a specific organ,” said Beetsch. “The idea of such precision medicine for cancer no longer seems beyond us.”

Although these advances are available and patient outcomes in England have improved, not everyone has equal access to cancer care, resulting in differences in survival rates across countries. A recent study by the National Audit Office (NAO) confirmed that cancer patients in the UK still face access issues to life-saving and life-enhancing medicines compared to cancer patients across Europe.3  However, this is not just a UK problem as reported by Eurocare-5. This study found that whilst cancer survival continues to vary widely between European countries despite major improvements in diagnosis and treatment, some countries, particularly in Eastern Europe still face major issues including lack of public funding for cancer control, limited national cancer plans and inadequate access to screening and treatment.4

The UK Government has recognised the need for effective strategies to further improve national survival rates and remains committed to introducing plans to help improve diagnosis and patient access to treatments. For example the in January 2015, NHS England announced the launch of a new, independent task force to develop a five-year action plan for cancer services to help improve survival rates and save lives. This came with a call to action for better prevention, swifter diagnosis, and better treatment, care and aftercare for all those diagnosed with cancer.5 Alongside this plan, NHS England is also investing in a major new programme to test innovative ways of diagnosing cancer more quickly at more than 60 sites across the country, and committed a further £15m over three years to evaluate and treat patients with a type of modern radiotherapy.6The recent Conservative Election Manifesto pledged to support the Five Year Plan and also continue its commitment to the 100,000 genome project.5

Bodies such as the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) recognise that a great deal of work is being done to develop innovative medicines to help improve patient outcomes and has welcomed initiatives such as Innovative Medicines and MedTech Review as a way to “enable all patients to access the right medicines at the right time, whatever their condition.”6

As part of its mission globally and its dedication to corporate responsibility, Celgene ensures that its patients are at the forefront of all its activities with industry-leading programmes that provide information and support to their innovative therapies.


1Department of Health. Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. Available from: http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/breastscreen/improving-outcomes-strategy-for-cancer.pdf

[Last accessed: May 2015]

2Cancer Research. Cancer Survival December 2014. Available from: http://publications.cancerresearchuk.org/downloads/Product/CS_REPORT_SURVIVAL.pdf [Last accessed: May 2015]

3National Audit Office. Progress in improving cancer services and outcomes in England January 2015. Available from: http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Progress-improving-cancer-services-and-outcomes-in-England-summary.pdf [Last accessed: May 2015]

4Eurocare-5. Large differences in cancer survival between European countries still remain despite major improvements in cancer diagnosis and treatment, 5th December 2013. Available from: http://www.eurocare.it/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=oppsGOjc5Xk%3D&tabid=64 [Last accessed: May 2015]

5NHS England. NHS launches new bid to beat cancer and save thousands of lives. Available from: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2015/01/11/beat-cancer/ [Last accessed: May 2015]

6The Conservative Election Manifesto 2015. Available from: https://www.conservatives.com/Manifesto [Last accessed May 2015]

6ABPI. NAO report confirms cancer patients in England have poorer access to medicines than those in Europe. Available from: http://www.abpi.org.uk/media-centre/newsreleases/2015/Pages/150115b.aspx. [Last accessed: May 2015)

Date of Preparation: June 2015