Dreaming to make cancer history
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Education, early detection and better clinical care have contributed to the decrease in cancer mortality over the past 20 years, according to a renowned molecular biologist at a lecture at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) on 29 September.
Targeted therapy was one of the main reasons for the decrease, said Professor Hung Mien-chie, Vice-President for Basic Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center at the latest installment of the City University Distinguished Lecture Series.
Professor Hung discussed the history of cancer and recent advances in cancer treatment in his lecture, “Cancer, still ‘Cancer’?” The US expected to diagnose 1,658,370 new cancer cases in 2015, he said. However, the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer patient is 68%, which has increased from 49% in the mid-1970s. Moreover, mortality from the four most common cancer types, including lung and breast cancers, has been decreasing over the past 20 years.
New cancer drugs such as imatinib, afatinib and rociletnib had proven to be effective in curing various cancers, Professor Hung said. In addition, recent advanced cancer therapies, including immune checkpoint and RARP inhibitors, have played a key role.
Professor Hung is also Professor and Chairman of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology at The University of Texas.
The MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world’s largest and most respected centres devoted exclusively to cancer patient care and research, recently launched the Moon Shots Programme. The aim is to reduce mortality and suffering for cancer patients through new paths for prevention, early detection and treatment. Cancers that are especially lethal, such as lung cancer, leukemia (CLL, MDS-AML), triple-negative breast cancer, high-grade serous ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma are targeted.
A great deal of knowledge had been accumulated about these and other cancers, Professor Hung said, and he reiterated the call to “make cancer history” put forward by Dr Ronald DePinho, President of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“To dream the impossible dream; to make the impossible possible—this is our work,” Professor Hung added.