Experts call for review of innovative cancer therapies to boost survival rates

There should be an independent review of how advances in cancer treatment are valued and paid for by the NHS and healthcare providers, according to a new policy report calling for improvement in survival rates in the UK.

Research by University College London’s School of Pharmacy pointed out that cancer death rates amongst children and adults aged under 60 are now half those recorded in the 1970s.

According to the UCL report, Controlling Cancer in the 2020s, the review should focus on funding for early stage cancer treatments that could generate health gains far into the future and take decades to fully evaluate.

Competition law could also be changed to help patients find combination therapies that suit their individual cancers, according to the report.

The NHS should also invest more in smoking prevention and early detection of lung cancer to bring survival rates in line with the best performing countries in the world, authors said.

Cancers currently kill 165,000 British people every year and in areas such as colon and lung cancer detection and treatment there is evidence that survival rates in England and the other UK countries still lag behind the best in the world.

Report authors cited lung cancer, where the recorded five year survival rate in Britain is about 15% compared with over 20% now being reported in Australia, Canada and the US.

They called for a UK-wide commitment to achieving a 25% five year lung cancer survival rate by 2025 and for setting an NHS target of 35% five year lung cancer survival by 2030.

Report author David Taylor, professor emeritus of Pharmaceutical and Public Health Policy at UCL, said: ‘The NHS has struggled to close the cancer survival gap. It needs to set ambitious outcome targets for the 2020s. Earlier diagnosis coupled with rapid and well co-ordinated treatment provision is part of the answer.

“But as more effective ways of controlling advanced cancers become available the health service should ensure that there is flexible and timely access for patients of all ages and social classes in all parts of the country to the full range of diagnostic, surgical, radio-therapeutic and drug interventions needed for achieving individual clinical care excellence.”

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