Progress in cancer research and treatment

May is National Cancer Research Month

progress in cancer researchI often hear from callers “Why hasn’t cancer been cured?” It is true that a cure for cancer has not been achieved, but it is important to remember there have been major advances and discoveries in the treatment of cancer. Progress in cancer research and scientific discoveries have led to:

  • Decreases in the incidence of many of the more than 200 types of cancer
  • Cures for a number of these diseases
  • Higher quality and longer lives for many individuals who cancers cannot yet be prevented or cured

Unfortunately, research has taught us that cancer is anything but simple.

In 1971:

  • there were 3 million cancer survivors
  • 1 in 69 people was a cancer survivor

In 2012:

  • there were 13.7 million cancer survivors
  • 1 in 23 people was a cancer survivor

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, from Sept. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013, the translation of scientific discoveries into a new drug, device, or technique approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was completed for 11 new anticancer drugs, three new uses for previously approved anticancer drugs, and three new imaging technologies (i.e., low-dose, high resolution CT scanners) that are helping clinicians to better detect, diagnose, and treat many forms of cancer.

Examples of new drugs:

  • Cabozantinib (Cometiq) – approved for thyroid cancer
  • Regorafenib (Stivarga) approved for colorectal cancer, stromal tumors
  • Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) – approved for certain type of melanoma
  • Sorafenib (Nexavar) – approved for kidney cancer

Doctors, nurses and research staff are working hard at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center to find cures. We are making progress and I have highlighted a few of our discoveries below:

  • Metastatic Prostate Cancer Clinical Study – A new clinical trial offered here and 10 other sites throughout the country is testing whether targeting treatments to a genetic anomaly can lead to better treatments for prostate cancer.
  • U-M offers new early detection test for prostate cancer – Urine test looks for gene fusion and PSA to help diagnose prostate cancer early
  • Cancer Stem Cell Research – We are one of only a few research institutions in the United States and Canada that has made an institutional commitment to cancer stem cell research. Organized teams of U-M scientists are studying cancer stem cells in many different types of cancer – including adrenal, breast, colon, head and neck, leukemia, lung, melanoma, myeloma, pancreatic, prostate and thyroid cancers
  • New indicator may help identify patients with increased risk from throat cancer – Our researchers have found a new indicator that may predict which patients with a common type of throat cancer are most likely have the cancer spread to other parts of their bodies.
  • Surgery beats chemotherapy for tongue cancer – Our research shows that patients with tongue cancer who started their treatment with a course of chemotherapy fared significantly worse than patients who received surgery first.
  • New laser-based tool – Imaging technique tells tumor tissue from normal tissue, could be used in operating room for real-time guidance of surgery.

Research can’t be done without the help of our patients. Patients play a vital role in finding better ways to treat cancer by participating in research studies-also known as clinical trials. Our patients are partners in care and partners in discovery. As in everything we do at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, the well-being of our patients and families always comes first.

Take the next step:

  • Learn more about clinical trials by reading our Introduction to Clinical Trials.
  • Please feel free to call the Cancer AnswerLine with any questions about research or clinical trials at 800-865-1125.

Continue learning about how cancer research leads to advancements in treatment

2013 annette 1The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.