Life of living: heralding a sea change in chronic cancer management

The story of cancer is evolving and on the whole is less gloomy than it once was. Over recent decades, there has been a sea change in care, management and life expectancy, allowing people with certain types of cancer to live with the disease, rather than die of it. This transformation is the result of huge advances in understanding the types of cancer and mechanisms of how it develops.

At Ipsen, oncology is at the heart of our business and part of our history. We are passionate about supporting people living with cancer and their healthcare teams, and proud to have been working in this area in the UK for more than 30 years. We look forward to future opportunities to make a difference to people living with cancer.

Back in the 1970s, when someone received a cancer diagnosis, there were limited treatment options. As a result, they would immediately put their affairs in order, knowing the worst would be inevitable. Now, it is possible for people to manage living with some types of cancer for one, two or even three decades. Moreover, they may be able to live in relative comfort, another vital advancement in cancer care. We are moving towards an era where some cancers might be classified as a chronic illness, something individuals live with, rather than dying prematurely from.

Cancer survival in the UK has doubled over the last 40 years; compared with the 1970s, when only one in four people would survive their cancer for more than ten years, we now see half survive beyond a decade. Groups such as Cancer Research UK have strong ambitions to achieve further improvements, aiming for three in four people to survive some cancers by 2034.

While we have seen people living longer with cancer, we have also witnessed an increase in the numbers being diagnosed with this disease. Latest statistics compiled by Macmillan Cancer Support in December 2017 reveal the number of people living with cancer in the UK between 2010 and 2015 rose by almost half a million. It is estimated that 2.5 million people are living with cancer in the UK today, a figure that is projected to reach four million by 2030. Clearly cancer and its management will increasingly impact society, but the key word to consider is “living” as more and more people are able to have a life of living with cancer.

We believe cancer patients must have a life worth living

For those who do live with a chronic cancer, their disease management requires a balance to be struck between treatment of the cancer and the disease symptoms. Previously the only focus may have been to extend life. Quality of life has become a priority for the healthcare team and person living with cancer. Oncologists and healthcare professionals in the NHS may initially focus on the fact that their patients may be able to live longer, but they also must have an acceptable quality of life while they’re alive. Every individual is different in their outlook, with some feeling they may not prefer to live for a few extra months if their quality of life is poor.

At Ipsen we believe cancer patients must have a life worth living. We look carefully at the impact of a medicine on the person because we want to understand how our medicines affect their lives beyond treating the underlying disease. Pharmaceutical companies have an important role to play here. Research efforts focus on medicines to treat the cancer or tumour, which often has a positive impact on the patient’s quality of life as a result.

But there has also been a concerted effort across the industry of medicine development to focus on treating the symptoms. These medicines are as important to those living with cancer as the medicines that treat the cancer itself. If you’re living with cancer for a number of decades, such medicines could make the difference, enabling you to go back to work, to look after your family, take a holiday and continue living life.

Ipsen is proud to partner with many healthcare organisations in the UK, including the NHS, which continues to be recognised globally as delivering leading research and care for patients. The pace of progress has never halted, with a variety of medicines now available for multiple types of cancer in the UK, many more than just a few years ago.

Yet treatment of some types of cancer has seen less progress than others. There are many reasons for this, one being where the type of cancer is less common, a rare cancer, affecting very few people. From a research and medicine development perspective, this can prove a real challenge for research teams and, of course, those living with certain conditions. A clinical trial for a rare cancer can take much longer to complete as it may take many years to find sufficient patients to take part who meet the carefully developed criteria.

In the UK, one in seventeen people will be affected by a rare disease, including rare cancers, at some point in their lives. In comparison, half the population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. At Ipsen we are committed to focusing our efforts in oncology to deliver research and advancing care for a range of cancers.

Every individual matters and thankfully, with the continued commitment of healthcare trusts and pharmaceutical companies, more people’s lives are being extended, and they can enjoy living those lives, despite having chronic cancer. The achievement in this area deserves to be celebrated and will drive further development. As such, we can be even more optimistic about what the future holds for cancer management.

At Ipsen our belief is that patients don’t have time to wait. We take a proactive approach as a partner with health authorities, and are proud to work collaboratively to make medicines available for patients across oncology, neuroscience and rare diseases.

This is sponsored content from Ipsen Limited. Date of preparation: October 2018 Job code: ALL-UK-000634