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Cancer Survivorship Research Should Aim to Enhance Quality of Life

Cancer Survivorship Research Should Aim to Enhance Quality of Life

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida—As cancer survival increases, outcomes research
must focus on both quality of life and length of survival, and must define and
quantify late effects of cancer treatment, Noreen Aziz, MD, PhD, MPH, said at
the Late Effects of Normal Tissues (LENT) IV workshop on late effects criteria
and applications.

"The remarkable progress over the last few decades in cancer detection
and early treatment is a success story that comes with a challenge: how to
treat the effects of cancer treatment seen in survivors," said Dr. Aziz,
program director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship, National Cancer
Institute (NCI). "Our mandate and goal for professionals dealing with
cancer survivors is to enhance the quality as well as the length of
survivorship."

Cancer has become for many a curable or chronic illness. There are currently
8.9 million cancer survivors in the United States facing delayed toxicity now
or in the near future (see Figure 1). Statistics suggest that by 2010, one of
every 250 adults aged 20 to 29 will be a survivor of childhood cancer. Apart
from other causes of death, 5-year survival from cancer is now 61% for adults
and nearly 75% for those under age 19 at diagnosis.

Cancer survivorship research attempts to identify, examine, prevent, and
control adverse effects related to cancer diagnosis and treatment outcomes, and
to provide a knowledge base allowing optimal health after cancer therapy. Since
1996, Dr. Aziz’s group has stimulated such research at the NCI and also
collaborated with the Department of Defense and various institutes at the
National Institutes of Health.

"How do we enhance research in this field?" Dr. Aziz asked.
"First we articulate our gaps in knowledge." Missing pieces of the
puzzle include cancer types that are common but not well studied, outcomes
research specific to age and cultural disparities, and appropriate assessment
instruments.

The best studied primary cancer is breast cancer, accounting for about 41%
of survivorship grants, while about 22% of research dollars are spent on
multiple or mixed cancers (see Figure 2). Although colorectal cancer is the
third most prevalent cancer, it receives only 3% of research funding, and very
little is known about long-term effects, Dr. Aziz said.

Other primary tumors, even common ones like prostate cancer, are also
understudied. Greater long-term survival in head and neck and hematologic
cancers now demands more survivorship research in these areas as well.

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