On the other hand, stomach, pancreatic, liver and gallbladder cancer remain deadly for almost everyone who receives a diagnosis. This gives rise to an unfortunate paradox: Despite declining cancer rates for the population as a whole—driven most prominently by healthier lifestyles and innovation —longer lifespans for many people will result in more cancer overall.
At least in recent years, we’ve become accustomed to big, audacious goals and widely publicized calls to action on cancer—a recent example is the Moonshot Initiative. These efforts are necessary, but we also have to temper enthusiasm with the reality that progress may be slower than we might hope.
Nearly all researchers agree that helping patients who suffer from the most deadly cancers will require personalized medicine, customized to genetic code and tumor type. Science is increasingly expensive (although worth it) and difficult. Therefore, as more people come to live with cancer, it’s vital to focus both on cures and fostering an improved, more comfortable environment for people living with the disease.
In my own experience working at Astellas, I have witnessed the enormous difference that new medicines can have on patients’ quality of life. This led me to an unorthodox insight that I think will prove useful in the long run: in some cases, it may make sense to treat cancers more like we treat conditions ranging from the common cold to HIV-AIDS. That is to say, working to improve quality of life with the same rigor as we do searching for a cure. At Astellas, we believe that going beyond the medicine and truly understanding the needs of patients and caregivers are essential to enhancing the patient experience.
This focus is a key factor in our R&D strategy. We are proud of our leadership position and oncology pipeline, which we’ve built through a blend of investments in organic R&D, strategic business development and collaborative partnerships with renowned institutions.
Today, we offer a standard of care for advanced prostate cancer patients, and we have a robust pipeline of potential treatments for malignancies with great unmet medical need, including acute myeloid leukemia, gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma, bladder cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer.
Eradicating the scourge of cancer is a goal we share; more innovative treatments will come to market in increasing numbers over the next several years. However, true breakthroughs may take decades in some instances. As we venture into new and more complex scientific research, it’s important to do everything we can to search for treatments that place equal emphasis on improving and extending lives. It’s also vital that our policies and market systems recognize the scientific realities in the journey to both incremental and breakthrough medical inventions.
This post was originally published on The Astellas Way blog.