publication date: Feb. 7, 2020

Are drugs really driving the latest drop in lung cancer mortality?

Looks like treatment is playing a role, experts say

By Matthew Bin Han Ong

On Jan. 8, the American Cancer Society published its annual estimates of new cancer cases and deaths, declaring that the latest data—from 2016 to 2017—show the “largest ever single-year drop in overall cancer mortality of 2.2%.”

Much hoopla followed.

The next day, President Donald Trump tweeted: “U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration.” Beyond the White House, too, the biggest questions revolved around credit, as medical oncologists and cancer epidemiologists pondered the 2.2% drop.

“Is this a blip in the data?” some asked. Or, perhaps, is this a sign that survival benefits and delay in progression from new drugs for lung cancer—targeted therapies and immunotherapies, etc.— are finally starting to show up as a mortality drop on the population level?

One thing was beyond dispute: the overall drop in mortality was driven by an unprecedented decline in lung cancer deaths. Since lung cancer continues to cause more deaths than breast, prostate, colorectal, and brain cancers combined, the single-year drop in lung cancer mortality is responsible for 0.8% of the decrease in overall mortality, accounting for more than a third of the total 2.2% decline.

“Immunotherapy is showing such a dramatic impact in the treatment of locally advanced and advanced non-small cell lung cancer that this effect elevates the statistics for all lung cancer and—this I find astonishing—you can even see its effect in age-adjusted cancer mortality overall,” opined Otis Brawley, the … Continue reading Are drugs really driving the latest drop in lung cancer mortality?

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