2021 may not have been the year anyone expected, while Covid-19 is still making its presence felt in our lives and around the world.
But UK charity Cancer Research has made several breakthroughs in medicine that are bringing us closer and closer to beating cancer.
From promising new cancer drugs to testing a blood test against cancer, the charity has made phenomenal progress this year that will save countless lives.
Read more: ‘Heart attack survivor celebrates Christmas after wife kept him alive with CPR for eight minutes’
Here are some of the best good news stories from the charity this year that deserve our thanks.
This year, a charity-funded study showed for the first time that the UK’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine program can prevent cervical cancer and save lives.
The vaccine has been shown to dramatically reduce the rate of cervical cancer by almost 90% in women in their 20s who were presented with it between the ages of 12 and 13.
Race For Life for cancer research in 2017. (Image: Thanet Gazette)
As the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, and a cancer that is highly preventable, in 2020 the WHO announced an ambitious plan to create a ‘cervical cancer-free future’.
India is on track to implement its own HPV vaccination program as part of this ambition, rising to the challenge of vaccinating the more than 74 million eligible girls in the country.
Cancer in children and young people
Cancer in children and adolescents is much rarer than cancer in adults and more than 8 in 10 survive their cancer for 10 years or more.
Thanks in part to the advances Cancer Research has made in diagnosing and treating these cancers through research, countless deaths have been avoided. (Image: PA)
But survival rates for children and young people have not always been so high: in the 1970s, just over a third of children with cancer in Britain survived for ten years or more.
If death rates for children and young people with cancer in the UK had stayed the same as their peak in the early 1970s, according to new estimates made this year, nearly 30,000 more children and young people would have died from cancer.
These deaths have been avoided, thanks in part to the advances cancer research has made in diagnosing and treating these cancers through research.
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New blood test
A blood test that has the potential to detect more than 50 types of cancer is now being tested in the NHS in England.
The Galleri blood test, developed by the GRAIL company, aims to detect cancer earlier by looking for abnormal DNA secreted from cancer cells in the blood. Further tests are still taking place, but are very promising.
Cancer research looks forward to pushing more tests of promise into trials, pilots and implementation, to generate much-needed benefit for patients.
In September, a first-of-its-kind cancer drug to treat a type of lung cancer was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The development was described by Cancer Research’s chief physician, Professor Charles Swanton, as “one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer in 20 years.”
“one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer in 20 years.” (Image: Stuart Vance/ReachPlc)
The groundbreaking decision follows a 40-year hunt for a drug that can target a mutation long considered “impenetrable.”
The drug, sotorasib (Lumykras), is now available on the NHS in England to eligible lung cancer patients following a national access agreement reached with the manufacturer.
In September of this year, researchers presented data described as “phenomenal” showing the power of a targeted drug to slow breast cancer growth.
The breakthrough drug works by delivering high concentrations of chemotherapy directly to cancer cells that have a certain protein (HER2) on their surface. It has been tried for women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer.
Patients taking the drug – trastuzumab deluxecan – were 72% less likely to see their cancer grow or die significantly than those who received existing treatment for breast cancer.
Scientist removes biological samples from a liquid nitrogen storage tank at Cambridge Institute Cancer Research UK (Image: Getty Images)
Professor Charles Swanton, Chief Physician of Cancer Research, said: “This exciting work is likely to change clinical practice and provide real benefits for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.”
bile duct cancers
10 years ago, a team of researchers from Cancer Research published the results of a clinical trial that has changed the way bile duct cancer is treated.
The Advanced Biliary tract Cancer (ABC)-02 study was the largest of its kind and showed an improvement in survival from a new combination of drugs – gemcitabine and cisplatin, compared to gemcitabine alone.
Cancer research 2021 developments save countless lives (Image: PA)
More than a decade later, a follow-up study, ABC-06, has pushed research even further by looking for chemotherapy options for people with advanced bile duct cancer who no longer benefit from this initial treatment.
And again, the results of the latest study have led to a change in practice, providing a new, widely accepted standard of care for patients with advanced biliary tract cancer.
Check out Cancer Research’s website to learn more about all of their recent advances and to donate to charity.
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