Even as cancer survival numbers continue to improve—the American Cancer Society notes that the number of cancer survivors in the United States has increased from 3 million in 1971 to 13.7 million in 2012—so does the incidence of cancer, making it one of the leading indications of interest in the pharmaceutical industry. According to one of the latest reports from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), there are 771 new medicines and vaccines being developed for cancer.
The need for cancer treatments remains high. Cancer is the cause of nearly one in every four deaths, making it the second-leading cause of death in the country. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year, there will be approximately 600,000 cancer-related deaths in the United States alone. Breast cancer is expected to have the highest incidence rate for 2014—with an estimated 235,030 new cases—followed by bladder cancer and cervical and uterine cancers. Breast cancer is also expected to account for the most deaths of any one cancer: 40,430 in 2014, roughly 7 percent of the estimated 585,720 deaths for the year.
Happily, life expectancy is also on the rise: five-year survival rates increased 39 percent between 1975 and 2006, with deaths down 20 percent since the 1990s. For patients with breast cancer, five-year survival rates have increased 21 percent since 1975, while they are up 50 percent for patients with prostate cancer. That five-year rate has also increased for colon cancer patients, up 36 percent, and lung cancer patients as well, whose survival rates are up 54 percent.
The pipeline candidates cover a variety of cancer subsets, including some of the cancer types with the leading mortality rates: of the drugs and vaccines in trials or awaiting regulatory review, 98 are indicated for lung cancer, 87 for leukemia, 78 for lymphoma, 73 for breast cancer, 56 for skin cancer and 48 for ovarian cancer. The bulk of these candidates are in either Phase 2 or 3 of development, and the nature of the candidates varies from monoclonal antibodies to cancer vaccines.
While the spending on cancer care represents less than 1 percent of all healthcare spending for all diseases—$25.9 billion out of $2,800 billion—the report notes, there is significant return on that investment: PhRMA reports that thanks to advancements in cancer treatment, 23 million years of life were saved between 1988 and 2000. Some of the most significant advances in cancer treatments, according to the report, include personalized medicines, targeted therapies, therapeutic cancer vaccines and preventive vaccines. In addition, “the United States realized $1.9 trillion in value due to improved productivity, extended life and other factors resulting from improved cancer treatment.” Cancer remains one of the leading financial and healthcare burdens, both in the United States and globally; the National Institutes of Health estimates that cancer costs $216.6 billion in 2009 for the United States alone, while 12.9 million new cancer cases globally cost $286 billion. Some 21.5 million new cancer cases are estimated for 2030, which “will cost the world economy $458 billion,” the report states.