Today, there is no known cure for cancer yet. Researchers, however, continue to research and develop drugs that are intended to improve the quality of life of the patients. Over the years new cancer drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the basis of “overall survival (OS), disease response rate (RR) or progression-free survival (PFS)”. These drugs have renewed the hope of some cancer patients albeit with many expensive options to choose from.
FDA Approval Process
The criterion used by the FDA to approve cancer drugs, however, does not provide proof that the drugs cure or extend the lifespan. Some patients are unhappy with the progress in the development of cancer drugs and think scientists could do better.
According to a report by the Center for Health Policy Outcomes, newly approved cancer drugs cost around $171,000 a year. These prices are exorbitantly high but sadly have no correlation to how well the medication works.
Ineffective Cancer Drugs
According to Dr Vinay Prasad, many of these drugs were barely beneficial to the patients and provided little or no evidence that they improve quality of life. Very few of these have been successful enough to improve the patient’s survival.
A study conducted by ASCO showed that meaningful outcome would be extending life expectancy by 2.5 to 6 months. Yet in a publication in the September 2016 issue of JAMA Oncology, Dr Sham Mailankody observed that of the cancer drugs approved in the previous two years, only five met these standards.
FDA officials cite various reasons why improved survival is not evident even with the many favourable drug trials.
- Some cancers grow slowly. For such cancers, it could take years of study for the drug to prove that it extends life expectancy in patients.
- Some cancer trials are designed to allow patients to “cross over”. This makes it hard to tell the effectiveness of the drug due to inconclusive findings.
- Some drugs allow a subset of patients to thrive, whereas the same results are not reflected in the overall findings.
- The FDA wants the patients to benefit from the drugs as soon as possible without concrete evidence of improved survival.
With time scientific research into cancer treatment is becoming less rigorous as more drugs are being released into the market. It is about time the FDA requires companies to provide properly researched survival data. Only then can patients know how well the drugs work or how safe they are.
The benefits of drugs are often overestimated and the risks and side effects underestimated. Drugs whose long-term side effects are unknown can harm patients, outweighing their benefits. Marlene McCarthy a Breast Cancer patient shares her frustration with the slow progression in treating cancer. According to her, researchers should focus on prevention of cancer.
Alternative Cancer Treatments
However, it’s not all doom and gloom as there are alternative cancer treatments such as Primary Immune Treatments that boost our immune systems and the Primary Cancer Treatments that target cancer tumours without harming the surrounding healthy tissue.
If you or a loved one would like to consult with us on alternative cancer treatments, contact us and a Patient Representative will get back to you at the earliest convenience.