What Matters Most to the Global Cancer Community: Honoring World Cancer Day 2017

By: Robert LaCaze, Executive Vice President, Oncology Strategic Business Unit, Bayer

The first World Cancer Day was established in February 2000 as part of the Paris Charter at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium, as a way to spread the word and raise the profile of cancer in people’s minds. The Charter of Paris Against Cancer promoted research to cure and prevent the disease, upgrade services provided to patients, and mobilize the global community against cancer.

Seventeen years later, this mission remains as important as ever. Currently, it is estimated that the lifetime risk for developing cancer in the U.S. is nearly 40 percent.¹ 33 million people globally are living with cancer today, and 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide in a single year.²

My first foray into oncology was in early 2001, after more than a decade of working in the pharmaceutical industry and not long after the Paris Charter was enacted. Since then, oncology innovation has been on the rise. In the past five years alone, 70 new oncology therapies have launched, and there are countless other pipeline agents in development that show promise for improving patient outcomes.³

Fast forward to today, where I am working with colleagues across the U.S., Japan, China, Europe and Latin America to help alleviate the growing cancer burden by nurturing a growing oncology pipeline and optimizing our existing line of treatments, many of which were first-in-class therapies that in some instances remain the standard of care for their respective tumor types.

I’m part of a team that is driven every day by what matters most to the cancer community, just as those who shaped the Paris Charter were about 17 years ago. This World Cancer Day, we at Bayer recognize what we have accomplished as part of a growing industry, and acknowledge what it will take to continue to offer meaningful progress to doctors and patients battling the toughest cancers with high unmet medical needs.

A Growing Therapeutic Area

We have made great strides in the development of new cancer treatments during the past 10 years. More patients today are living longer and better. But far too many remain without viable options. As our population ages, the incidence of cancer will increase. Cancer is highly differentiated — comprising nearly 100 different types — and impacts every patient differently, often changing during the course of disease and becoming resistant to treatment.

It’s no surprise, then, that oncology growth is outpacing any other facet of the pharmaceutical industry. Of all the recent breakthrough therapy designations that have been granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than half are in the area of oncology. About a third of all Phase I pharmaceutical trials are in this field. Our goal is to get new treatments to patients who need them as quickly as possible, and with our newly formed Oncology Strategic Business Unit, we are following two tracks to help accomplish this.

First, we are looking to optimize the use of existing treatments, in an effort to extend these therapies to as many patients as possible. At the same time, we are focusing on our early-stage pipeline products, which will serve as our next wave of innovation. Oncogenic signaling, antibody-drug conjugates and immuno-oncology are therapeutic platforms we are pursuing to provide a diverse range of approaches to treating cancer. We have historically developed compounds with the intention of having them work across multiple tumor types. We begin the process with a core indication, and if it proves safe and efficacious in that indication, we expand the drug’s application to additional ones. With this approach, we hope to expand our reach to as many patients as possible.

Our Patient Commitment

Bayer’s mission is to drive “Science for a Better Life.” To me, this isn’t accomplished solely from a research perspective — we must get out among the patients as well. Our industry could develop and launch thousands of new cancer drugs — but those efforts would be meaningless if patients weren’t educated enough about cancer to know what to look for, or able to gain access to the treatments we are working so hard to develop.

Cancer care is optimized when we understand patient behaviors that can hinder their care. These behaviors, which include a lack of awareness of the risk factors associated with the disease or delaying important discussions with their doctors, can be corrected or improved through patient-focused educational programs and services. Many of these programs are driven by patient advocacy organizations, making our advocacy partnerships essential. Through these partnerships, we have delivered education and awareness to patients while helping empower them to take necessary steps to better manage their cancer with the help of healthcare teams.

Our goal is to ensure that every person who may benefit from Bayer’s cancer medicines is able to afford and access them. We recognize though that at times, even the most educated and empowered patients struggle to gain access to treatment. That’s why we have established a number of assistance programs to provide options for patients, whether insured, under-insured or uninsured, seeking the treatments they need.

Mobilizing the Global Community: World Cancer Day and Every Day

Seventeen years later, we have a clear path forward and a keen understanding of what it will take to beat this disease. There has already been a 25 percent reduction in death from cancer and 2.1 million deaths avoided in the U.S. alone,¹ thanks to the efforts described above that have led to better cancer care. Today and every day, we reflect on efforts like the Charter of Paris Against Cancer, which united us on a global scale toward a common goal. Just as the tagline for this year’s World Cancer Day suggests, ‘We Can. I Can.’ continue to make a real impact and help reduce the global burden of cancer.

References:

1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2017. Accessed January 2017. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-048738.pdf.

2. Globocan. Estimated Cancer Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence Worldwide in 2012. All Cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) Estimated Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence Worldwide in 2012. Accessed January 2017. http://globocan.iarc.fr/Pages/fact_sheets_cancer.aspx.

3. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Global Oncology Trend Report: A Review of 2015 and Outlook to 2020. Accessed January 2017. http://lib.shsmu.edu.cn/Assets/userfiles/sys_183695/files/IMSH_Institute_Global_Oncology_Trend_2015_2020_Report.pdf

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