The report was developed by an 18-member editorial board made up of leading oncologists. Only studies that significantly changed the way a cancer is understood or had a major impact on patient care were chosen for the report, Vogelzang noted.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, agreed that "we are moving into a new era of [cancer] drug development."
He explained that a better understanding the genetics of a particular cancer now makes it possible to develop medicines that target a key part of the tumor cell, making therapies more specific and effective.
"For example, in melanoma we are still using the same drug today that I used back in 1972," Lichtenfeld said. However, the advent of new drugs is starting to change that, he added.
"The extension of life may be modest, [but] we need to appreciate that they are real," Lichtenfeld said. "Ten years ago we started talking about making cancer a 'chronic disease' and we are starting to see that happen."
There's much more on cancer at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Nicholas Vogelzang, M.D., Head, Section of Genitourinary Cancer, Nevada Cancer Institute, co-executive editor of the report; Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., deputy chief medical officer, American Cancer Society; Dec. 5, 2011, Clinical Cancer Advances 2011: ASCO's Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer, Dec. 5, 2011, Journal of Clinical Oncology, online
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