Today I was thinking about what cancer drugs might be good to watch out for this year, such as abiraterone from Cougar Biotech currently being tested in prostate and breast cancers and Affinitor from Novartis, which is expecting FDA approval this year in renal cancer. A quick Google search turned up this article from the London Times and made me cringe at the following headline:
"Cancer drug could save the lives of 10,000 a year".
The article talks about the potential impact of abiraterone in prostate cancer. Now, don't get me wrong I like both of these drugs and believe they will make an impact – on survival, but not as a 'cure' which is implicit in the saving lives byline.
Journalists often fail to understand the basics of cancer research. While the goal is to find a drug that induces remission or cure, in the meantime until our understanding of the science and biology improves greatly, we are stuck with expressing clinical trial results as 'survival', that is how long a patient lives compared to standard therapy. Otherwise, the only real known cures are surgery and stem cell transplant and even then not all are cured by either procedure.
There is a huge difference implicit in 'saving lives' versus 'living longer'.