Expensive new cancer medicines not as effective as hoped
Not all new and often expensive cancer medications that hit the market in the past years are proving as effective as hoped in practice. The medicines for some types of cancers seem to increase their patients’ chance of survival, but others seem to have little effect, De Volksrkant reports based on figures from the Netherlands comprehensive cancer center IKNL.
According to the IKNL, people with metastatic cancer, on average, live slightly longer than they did 25 years ago. But those extra years are unevenly divided. The center compared the survival data of people diagnosed with metastases between 2014 and 2018 with data from between 1989 and 1993.
The 5-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer rose from 14 to 32 percent, and for metastatic prostate cancer, from 23 to 42 percent in that period. On the other hand, patients with metastatic small-cell lung cancer saw hardly any progress in their chances of survival. The same goes for people with metastatic pancreatic cancer, whose five-year survival rate improved from 0 to 1 percent.
Over the past years, many new medicines for metastatic cancer hit the market, expanding treatment options beyond only chemotherapy and radiation. But not all of these often expensive drugs seem to have much effect, according to the Volkskrant.
For example, 19 new drugs came onto the market for non-small cell lung cancer during the study period. But those patients' 5-year survival rate only rose from 1 to 7 percent. Kidney cancer got 14 new drugs, and the 5-year survival rate rose from 6 to 13 percent.
In contrast, patients with a rare form of gastrointestinal tract cancer (GIST) saw their 5-year survival rate increase from 8 to 54 percent thanks to new drugs. Some women with metastatic breast cancer also benefit from new medicines.
IKNL researcher Sabine Siesling pointed out that many factors can influence survival rate in a 25-year period, making interpretation of the data challenging. Diagnostics have also improved, for example, so metastases can be detected at an earlier stage and treated more effectively. The IKNL also did not look at individual medicines used.