Saturday, September 21, 2019

"We have been able to go to the moon. We should be able to stop cancer."

Rare cancers represent the "greatest inequality" in cancer research and treatment, according to a 2017 study by researchers at Queen's University Belfast. 

The term "rare cancer" is something of a misnomer, since it encompasses 198 different diseases, according to the European Information Network on Rare Cancers. Roughly a quarter of all cancer cases diagnosed in the US and European Union are rare cancers, according to data compiled by Rare Cancers Europe and the US National Institutes of Health.

Of the top eight deadliest cancers, seven are considered rare, and deadly cancers have a five-year survival rate of less than 50 percent, according to the TargetCancer Foundation.

Huge disparities in research, funding and treatment exist. In the US, for example, the National Cancer Institute dedicated half a billion dollars to breast cancer research in 2017, and more than $320m to lung cancer research. Salivary gland cancer, on the other hand, received just $678,015 in funding.

Pharmaceutical companies are also reluctant to fund research into rare cancers because investing in cures for diseases that affect relatively small groups of people may not lead to drugs that can recoup the cost of development.

"If you are a scientist and you focus on large, mainstream cancer, you know that your findings may be relevant for a population that is not small," professor Dr. Manuel Salto-Tellez, the study's lead author, told Al Jazeera. "If you spend your time on rare cancer, then the impact of your research may not necessarily be as much."

"If you put that together with the idea that funding agencies feel more or less the same - that they should invest in cancers that are more common, and therefore the result would benefit more people - then neither the interest nor the funding is necessarily there," he said.

No comments: