Cancer Survivorship: Activities and Research Looking
Beyond the Cure
For the National Cancer Institute (NCI), June has been a month of great excitement and progress in cancer survivorship research. Cancer Survivors' Day and the release of the President's Cancer Panel report, Living Beyond Cancer: Finding a New Balance, kicked off the month. Mid-month, we awarded 17 new grants to study long-term cancer survivors and cohosted with the American Cancer Society (ACS) our second biennial conference, "Pathways to Health After Treatment." To conclude the month, we reported new survivor prevalence data in the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer and in last week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the core of all these activities lies a common premise: Cancer survivors are experiencing longer survival, thus attention to their quality of life is imperative.
Once almost uniformly fatal, cancer has become for most people a chronic illness, and for growing numbers, a curable disease. In the absence of other competing causes of death, current figures indicate that for adults diagnosed today, 64 percent can expect to be alive in 5 years. Almost 79 percent of childhood cancer survivors will be alive at 5 years, and 10-year survival is approaching 75 percent. As advances in cancer detection, treatment, and care diffuse into clinical practice and as the current population ages, the number of survivors can be expected to increase.
The steadily increasing number of cancer survivors is a testament to the many successes achieved by the cancer community. These include progress in the development and use of cancer screening and early detection technologies, more effective and often multimodal therapies, and a broadening array of supportive care and rehabilitative options. Increased survivorship also results from wider adoption of cancer screening behaviors and healthier lifestyles by those at risk for the disease. At the same time, the 9.8 million survivors in the United States represent a clear challenge to NCI. These individuals serve as a reminder that we must look beyond the search for a cure and provide hope for a productive and valuable future to those living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer survivors face issues such as maintaining optimal physical and mental health, preventing disability and late effects related to cancer and its treatment, and ensuring social and economic well-being for themselves and their families. The 17 grants to study long-term survivors will begin to address many of these issues.
The studies will examine areas such as health care utilization after treatment, the impact of newer cancer therapies on quality-of-life outcomes, the incidence and nature of metabolic syndromes among childhood and adult cancer survivors, and interventions to ameliorate adverse outcomes among those living with unfavorable consequences of their disease or its treatment. Investigators will address these questions with special awareness of and focus on previously understudied populations including people who have survived colorectal, head and neck, gynecologic, or hematologic cancers; the elderly; and people from diverse sociocultural backgrounds. These grants will enable us to create a strong, multidisciplinary cadre of investigators positioned to enhance the scientific and methodological basis of this quickly maturing area of scientific inquiry.
NCI could not be at the forefront of survivorship research without innovative collaborations with partners such as CDC, ACS, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. With their support and dedication, NCI's Office of Cancer Survivorship is uniquely poised to champion significant advances in cancer survivorship research.
Dr. Julia H. Rowland