Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drug Innovation 8: Treating Men's Cancer

My elder brother died of prostate C a few years ago, then my mother's first cousin in Cebu. Nationwide, prostate C I think is among the killer diseases for men. My HMO or private health insurance told me once to undergo a test of prostate C as it might be hereditary in our family but I have done it yet. 

Today, there is a news report from on men's cancer, that by 2027, the Cancer Research UK foresees that one-half of our gender worldwide will have one form of cancer developing in our body. Not a scary thought for me actually because I will be in the mid 60s by that time. But then any cancer cell can multiply anytime in one's body as one ages and as one's immune system gets weaker.

Here's portion of that news report:

LONDON - A man's lifetime risk of developing cancer is set to reach one in two by 2027, according to new figures released by the Cancer Research UK on Wednesday.

This prediction means that within 15 years 50 men out of every 100 are likely to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime as opposed to 44 out of every 100 in 2010.

The research body predicted that women's lifetime cancer risk is also increasing and is predicted to rise from 40 to 44 out of every 100 women by 2027.

But it is still optimistic about cancer surviving thanks to better techniques.

"Cancer survival has doubled in the last 40 years thanks to research developing better techniques to detect the disease and improved treatments to increase survival," it said.

"So while the risk of being diagnosed with cancer is rising, the overall chance of surviving it is improving."

It held that age is the biggest risk factor for cancer and the increase in risk is largely due to more people living longer. As our lifespan increases more people will reach an age when they are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer....

Thanks to modern medicine and the life sciences. Human understanding of various diseases keeps improving. Understanding of a disease, how it starts and how it expands, is a prerequisite to developing a treatment, both in lifestyle change and in medication.

In an article this year in BusinessWorld, Medicines in Development for Cancer, Reiner Gloor of PHAP wrote,

Meanwhile, more than 30% of cancer could be prevented through healthy lifestyle, which includes non-tobacco use, a healthy diet, being physically active and moderate use of alcohol. Furthermore, the chances of beating cancer become higher each day with early detection, vaccination and a steady stream of innovative medicines.

The solid commitment to patients and the advancement of science are at the core of the sustained progress in the fight against cancer. Biopharmaceutical researchers are now developing 981 medicines for all cancer types. Many are high-tech weapons to fight the disease, while some involve innovative research into using existing medicines in new ways, announced the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

In its 2012 Report on Medicines in Development for Cancer, PhRMA revealed that several cutting-edge approaches are being employed in search for better treatments for cancer.

The report said that medicines in the pipeline include a drug that interferes with the metabolism of cancer cells by depriving them of the energy provided by glucose. Also in development is a medicine for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that inhibits cancer cells with a mutation found in about a third of AML sufferers. The list likewise includes a therapy that uses nanotechnology to target the delivery of medicines to cancer cells, potentially overcoming some limitations of existing treatments, said the report.

In a bid to address major types of cancer, the report said that there are 121 medicines in development for lung, lymphoma (117), breast (111), colorectal (66), ovarian (63), and stomach (23) cancers among others. In addition, there are 94 medicines and vaccines in the pipeline for prostate cancer. Meanwhile, "orphan drugs" are being developed for rare cancer types that affect less than 200,000 people.

Researchers are also working on treatments for cancer types that affect children. There are medicines in development for brain cancer affecting the young for neuroblastoma, glioma, and glioblastoma.

Many of these candidate drugs have entered clinical trial, or the phase in research and development (R&D) that perform human testing involving up to 5,000 individuals to establish the safety and efficacy of the medicines.

Meanwhile, some medicines in development for leukemia have been granted fast track status or are considered orphan drugs.

Healthy lifestyle like avoiding excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, fatty food and drinks, having a more active rather than sedentary life, is still the best and cheapest defence in preventive healthcare. But should cancer cells or other diseases come in, the use of modern medicines should be tapped whenever possible. 

It is important that public policies and government regulations that tend to inhibit or discourage more medicine innovation, more innovative healthcare schemes under a competitive environment, should be avoided. There is money in healthcare, the same way that there is money in education and housing, in food manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, IT and telecomms, and there is even huge money in politics and excessive government spending. Different players in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, molecular biology and other life sciences will come in when their risk-taking and health innovation will be properly rewarded, not demonized by politics and heavy government regulations like IPR busting and price control.

Meanwhile, here's another article by Reiner last year, also published in BusinessWorld.

Many cancers can be prevented and cured

August 19, 2011

Medicine Cabinet -- Reiner W. Gloor 

Cancer is one of the major noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that will be given global attention when the United Nations General Assembly convenes for a High-level Summit in September. It is a leading cause of death worldwide which claimed more than 7.5 million lives in 2008. It is projected that it will continue to rise with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030, a situation which could be a crucial concern.

Cancer knows no boundaries. Rich or poor, young or old, men or women. However, the burden for low- and middle-income countries is growing with more than 70% of the reported deaths occurring in them in 2008. Low- and middle-income countries also stand to be hardest hit by consequences of other major NCDs such as chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. A UN report explained that in developing countries, noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors worsen poverty, while poverty results in rising rates of such diseases.

In the interest of space, this column will discuss cancer in general as there could be more than a hundred types of cancer. This is due to the fact that cancer, also referred to as malignant tumor or neoplasm, can affect any part of the body. It arises from a single cell but transforms and progresses into malignant tumors.

The Philippine Cancer Society explained that cells grow, divide, and produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. However, the process goes wrong sometimes and cells become abnormal, forming more cells in an uncontrolled way. The extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor, which can be benign or malignant, meaning cancerous.

The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that “metastasis” is a defining feature of cancer. It is a process referring to the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries, and which can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs.

The WHO added that these changes are the result of the interaction between a person’s genetic factors and external agents such as physical carcinogens (ultraviolet and ionizing radiation); chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant); and biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites.

Aging is also a factor for the development of cancer. Other risk factors include smoking, alcohol, unhealthy diet, and chronic infections from hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and some types of human papilloma virus (HPV).

According to the WHO, the main types of cancer are lung (1.4 million deaths); stomach (740,000 deaths); liver (700,000 deaths); colorectal (610,000 deaths); and breast (460,000 deaths).
The 2010 Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates has provided a glimpse of the burden of the disease in the country.

According to the report, lung cancer is the most common cancer in men and the third most common in women. It added that four out of 100 men and one out of 100 women in the country would have had a likelihood of developing lung cancer before reaching the age 75. In 2010, the same report said that 6,987 men and 2,197 women succumbed to lung cancer.

Meanwhile, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipino women while cervical cancer ranked second. Colorectal cancers, on the other hand, is the third most common cancer in the Philippines.

On the brighter side, more than 30% of cancer can be prevented by avoiding risk factors such as tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diet, low fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity, alcohol use, sexually transmitted HPV infection and air pollution, among others.

The WHO also said that cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and treated early. Early detection means knowing early signs and symptoms to facilitate diagnosis and treatment before the disease progresses. Cancer screening, on the other hand, aims to identify individuals with abnormalities suggestive of a specific cancer or pre-cancer and refer them promptly for diagnosis and treatment. (For more information on cancer, go to

According to the C-Network, among the cancers that can be prevented are lung, liver, cervical, oral cavity, stomach, colon, rectum and skin melanoma. When treated early and properly, it added that breast, cervical, colon, rectum, oral cavity, thyroid, and prostate cancers can be cured.

The pharmaceutical industry, through the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, will present a 10-point Framework for Action on NCDs as key stakeholder and subject matter expert during the High-Level Summit next month.

See also: 
Drug Innovation 3: Biopharmaceutical R&D and Innovation, June 01, 2012
Drug Innovation 6: Dealing with Drug-Resistant TB, November 30, 2012
Drug Innovation 7: IFPMA, Superbugs and Tropical Diseases, December 04, 2012

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