Nav: Home

Publicly funded cancer trials save more than 3 million years of life

June 05, 2017

PORTLAND, OR - People diagnosed with cancer gained 3.34 million years of life thanks to cancer clinical trials run by SWOG and supported with public funds, according to new study results to be presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world's largest clinical cancer research meeting. The dollar return on investment from federal funding, the study showed, was estimated to be just $125 for each life year gained.

SWOG biostatistician Joseph Unger, Ph.D., of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, led the work and will present it on a June 5 ASCO panel. Results will be simultaneously published online in the journal JAMA Oncology. SWOG is a cancer clinical trials network funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the federal government's leading cancer research agency.

"The NCI's investment in SWOG and our network has resulted in a significant benefit to the American public," Unger said. "A lot of people with cancer have lived longer because of the therapies tested in our publicly-funded trials. At the same time, the cost of this research is relatively low. So with high impact and low cost, it's a great value for taxpayers."

"This collection of data combining years of research shows a dramatic extension of life gained by participation in, or as a result of, clinical trials," said Dr. Jeff Abrams, associate director of NCI's Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program. "This provides a new metric for assessing the value of publicly supported cancer research."

In 2016, SWOG celebrated its 60th anniversary as part of the NCI's National Clinical Trials Network and NCI Community Oncology Research Program. SWOG treatment and prevention trials have enrolled more than 200,000 patient volunteers, and led to the approval of 14 new cancer drugs and more than 100 changes to the standards of cancer care. But what is the human impact of these medical innovations? How much longer do people live because of them?

With the SWOG anniversary, and the spotlight on cancer research cast by the federal Cancer Moonshot initiative, Unger and his colleagues wanted to study SWOG's long-term impact.

Last summer from his office at Fred Hutch, Unger began poring over SWOG study data from 1956 to 2016. He identified 193 Phase III randomized trials - the gold standard in clinical research - for analysis. These trials all tested new drugs or procedures against current therapies to see if they improved "overall survival." This term refers to how long someone lives after they're diagnosed with cancer, or when they start treatment. Of those 193 completed trials, Unger identified 23 that showed a statistically significant increase in overall survival due to the new therapy. These studies enrolled a total of 12,361 patients diagnosed with a variety of cancers, including lung, breast, skin, and prostate, as well as blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.

Unger devised a statistical model using an analytical framework that assumed the new trial-proven treatments would become the standard of care, that the effects would last for five years, and that all future patients diagnosed with those cancers would benefit from the new treatment. Using data from the NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, which tracks cancer cases in the U.S., he estimated the number of people to whom the new treatments would apply. He also estimated how long those people were likely to live, and the period of post-treatment benefit. Then he calculated the cumulative life years gained from each trial, and tallied up the gains from all 23 studies through the end of 2015.

The grand total: 3.34 million years of life gained. Even when Unger adjusted his model to account for the fact that not all patients may get the new treatment, and even when he lowered the effect of the new treatment to three, not five years, the model showed a benefit of at least 2 million years in nearly every simulation.

Unger calculated the dollar return on investment using federal budget data to create an inflation-adjusted estimate of $418 million in NCI funding to SWOG over its 60-year history in 2015 dollars. Unger will present his work at an ASCO 2017 poster discussion session on June 5 from 4:45 to 6 p.m. in S504 in Hall A of McCormick Place in Chicago. ASCO 2017 will attract more than 30,000 cancer professionals to discuss new cancer treatments and research findings.

"Time is the most priceless gift we have, and the ability to give people with cancer more time with their loved ones is a major achievement," said SWOG Group Chair Dr. Charles Blanke, the senior author of this abstract. "To put the numbers in context, the most conservative estimate of 2 million years is the equivalent of giving about three extra years of life to every one of the estimated 600,000 Americans expected to die of cancer this year. This is an exceptional benefit to come out of federally-funded cancer research."
-end-
Michael LeBlanc, Ph.D, director of SWOG's statistics and data management center at Fred Hutch, is the other co-author on the abstract. The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health supported this research under grant awards 5U10CA180888-03, 5U10CA180819-03, and 5UG1CA189974. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

SWOG is a global cancer research community of over 12,000 members in 47 states and six foreign countries who design and conduct publicly funded clinical trials. Since 1956, SWOG trials have led to the approval of 14 cancer drugs and changed more than 100 standards of cancer care. The group is a proud member of the National Cancer Institute's National Clinical Trials Network and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program, and is a major part of the cancer research infrastructure in the U.S. and the world. Headquartered at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., SWOG's statistics and data management center is based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash. and its operations office is located in San Antonio, Texas. The Hope Foundation, a public charity, supports SWOG's work. Learn more at swog.org.

SWOG

Related Cancer Articles:

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.