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November 23, 2013

Don't gamble with health care

The great Muhammad Ali once said, “Life is a gamble.” It’s true, much of what we know about life is the result of taking a chance.

But gambling isn’t a good idea when it comes to healthcare---especially for those of us who are waging battles against chronic, life threatening diseases.

But sadly, insurance companies are doing just that---gambling on the health of people in our state in order to inflate their bottom line.

I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer six years ago. Since then, I’ve been on a myriad of treatments to fight the disease and give me a good quality of life. My doctors and I have worked hard to figure out what medications and treatments are most effective and allow me to live life to the fullest.

That’s why it was so confounding to me but no surprise to my doctor when in the midst of my treatment, my insurance company tried to keep me from getting a medication that my doctor had prescribed.

One of the side effects of my disease and cancer treatment is neuropathy---damage to the nerves in a person’s body. As one might imagine, this condition causes extreme pain.

My doctor and I worked to find a medication to help manage the pain. The first medication I tried made me extremely dizzy. So, my doctor quickly prescribed another medication. But here’s where the trouble started.

When I went to the pharmacy to fill that second prescription I was told by the pharmacist that my insurer would not pay for the second medication---until I had proven to fail on the first for a 30 day period. This happened several times over the years, and my doctor has had to repeatedly intervene to keep me on the medication we both know works best for me.

Even more frustrating, there is a difference of just four dollars between the medication I need to have and the one my insurer wanted to try and switch me to! A four-dollar savings for them---was a life changer for me.

Sadly, this is not unusual. This insurance practice is known as “step therapy” or fail first and happens to patients across the state and across the country on a regular basis. It amounts to insurance companies taking over the role of doctor—forcing people to try other, often less expensive or less effective treatments to “prove” they don’t work for the individual. This forced prescribing doesn’t take into account a person’s individual medical condition, but rather is based on a cost saving formulary determined by the insurer.

But lawmakers in Massachusetts are working to stop this. Just a few weeks ago, I testified at the Statehouse about Senate Bill 439 – “An Act relative to patient medication adherence,” that would prevent patients from being forced to take medication they have already tried and have failed. We are lucky in our area to have this bill championed by local state Senator Barry Finegold.

Sen. Finegold has continually fought for patient protections over the years, and I ask his colleagues on Beacon Hill to pass this legislation in order to protect others from going through what I and countless other patients have gone through in order to get the medications that our doctors say we need.

Jack Whelan of Andover was diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia, a rare lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma in 2007 and has been an active member of several cancer advocacy programs and organizations.

Massachusetts Clinical Trials Benefit Patients and the Economy - See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Massachusetts Clinical Trials Benefit Patients and the Economy 

Massachusetts Clinical Trials Benefit Patients and the Economy - See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

Worcester, MA (November 12, 2013) – Working with Massachusetts research institutions, including several facilities in Worcester, the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted 4,710 clinical trials of new medicines in the state over the last 14 years, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

“Clinical research in central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients,” said Murray.  “Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital.”

“Our companies have been a source of jobs, investment in research and contributions to local communities throughout Massachusetts,” said Trewhitt.  “In 2011, the biopharmaceutical research sector supported more than 179,000 high-quality jobs in the state and generated $38 billion in economic activity.  The more than 50,000 employees who work directly for biopharmaceutical companies in Massachusetts alone paid $173 million in state taxes.” 

More than half of the clinical trials conducted in the Bay State by biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted the most debilitating chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses.  Over 500 of those chronic condition trials are still active in communities all over the state, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Framingham, Quincy, Cambridge, Lawrence, Pittsfield, Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Milford, Newton and Hyannis.

Of 38 trials of potential new medicines still active in Worcester and seeking patients, 29 are for cancer, four are for heart disease, three for stroke and two for diabetes. 

In addition to institutions in Worcester, biopharmaceutical companies are partnering with a wide range of university medical schools and science centers, local hospitals and contract research organizations in other parts of the state, including:

  • Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Tufts University Medical Center, Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
  • Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham.
  • Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis.
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield.
  • New England Center for Clinical Research, Fall River.
  • Quincy Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
  • Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield.
  • Lahey Clinic, Burlington.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston.
  • McLean Hospital, Belmont. 

More information on clinical trials in Massachusetts can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov , the comprehensive trials data-base maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and www.phrma.org.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.KVtMVbbc.dpuf

 

November 12, 2013

Report: 491 New Medicine Trials Conducted in Worcester Since 1999

Biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted nearly 500 clinical trials of new medicines in Worcester over the past 14 years, according to a report released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Eighty-four of the more than 700 trials added throughout Massachusetts since 2012 have taken place in Worcester, the report found. Nearly 40 of the current Worcester trials target chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

"Clinical research in Central Massachusetts allows our researchers to be involved in the development of important new medicines for patients," said Tim Murray, president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. "Clinical trials have benefited such institutions as the UMass Medical School, Reliant Medical Group at Worcester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital."

UMass Medical School, Reliant and the Fallon Clinic at Worcester Medical Center are playing host to many of the 29 cancer-related trials taking place in the Worcester area, the report found. UMass Medical School is also conducting clinical trials for heart disease and stroke, the report found.

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.RJG00TFh.dpuf

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.    - See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.1izFFQmG.dpuf

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.RJG00TFh.dpuf

The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Massachusetts,” shows biopharmaceutical companies continuing to expand clinical research with over 700 trials added throughout the state in the last 1.5 years.   

In Worcester, the companies and local research collaborators have conducted 491 new medicine trials since 1999, including 38 that target cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke that are still active and recruiting patients.  Eighty-four trials have been added in Worcester since 2012.

The new report was released today by PhRMA and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce at a news conference.  Conference speakers included former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the new president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Margaret Koziel, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jack Whelan, the survivor of a rare blood cancer, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer and strong advocate of clinical trials and research, and PhRMA spokesman Jeff Trewhitt, co-author of the report.   

- See more at: http://phrma.org/press-release-2013-riyb-massachusetts#sthash.RJG00TFh.dpuf

In-home chemotherapy saves money, helps patients

In a late-night session last Thursday, the state Senate gave a thumbs up to the “Oral Chemo Parity” bill, S. 1070. If supported by the House of Representatives, the bill will correct an historical quirk in Massachusetts law where health insurance may cover only 70 percent of the cost of chemotherapy for cancer patients if that chemo is taken in a pill form at home where it would be considered pharmacy coverage rather than traditional intravenous (IV) infusion at a health-care facility.

I am now participating in a clinical trial that replaces IV chemotherapy at Dana Farber with three pills that I take every other week. Not only do I have fewer side effects from this oral chemotherapy, but I do not have to take time off from work or incur any of the other costs associated with traveling from my home to Dana Farber as frequently and remaining there for four hours of treatment. In addition, I avoid infections that can be transmitted when people with compromised immune systems are treated in the same infusion room facility.

When the clinical trial is over, the price of my oral chemotherapy will be an estimated $270 to $670 per pill. Because of out-of-date regulations, insurance will only cover 70 percent of the cost of the pills, compared to 100 percent of the cost of my IV chemo at Dana Farber. That’s a substantial out-of-pocket cost because regulations haven’t kept up with new technology. As my cancer is not curable, I will have to stay on some form of treatment for the rest of my life, an expensive proposition.

The irony is that in terms of the cost to society, taking a pill is less expensive than receiving chemotherapy treatment in a hospital setting — typically a cost of $24,000 a visit. The cost-cutting reforms being pursued by the legislature and governor right now are aimed, in part, at moving away from costly hospital-setting treatment to less expensive in-home treatment.

In addition, this legislation makes sure that all cancer treatments are covered to the same degree and encourage using dramatically lower-cost pill form. For all of these reasons, the Legislature should pass the oral chemotherapy parity bill, now S. 2360 replacing S. 1070.

Jack Whelan

It is timely that our state representative, Paul Adams, wrote the Townsman about why he voted against government mandates which in fact don't save consumer or taxpayer healthcare costs. I agree with Adams because it is an out-of-date regulation that backed us into a corner that causes insurance companies to only partially cover certain chemotherapies. We need to fix this now.

 

In a late night session last Thursday, the state Senate gave a thumbs up to the "Oral Chemo Parity" bill S.1070 which if supported by the House of Representatives will correct an historical quirk in Massachusetts law where healthcare insurance may cover only 70 percent of the cost of chemotherapy for cancer patients if that chemo is taken in a pill form at home where it would be considered pharmacy coverage rather than traditional intravenous infusion at a healthcare facility.

 

For example, I am now participating in a clinical trial that replaces IV chemotherapy at Dana Farber with three pills that I take every other week. Not only do I have fewer side effects from this oral chemotherapy, but I do not have to take time off from work or incur any of the other costs associated with traveling from my home in Andover to Dana Farber as frequently and remaining there for four hours of treatment. In addition, I avoid infections that can be transmitted when people with compromised immune systems are treated in the same infusion-room facility.

 

When the clinical trial is over, the price of my oral chemotherapy will be an estimated $270 to $670 per pill. Because of out-of-date regulations, insurance will only cover 70 percent of the cost of the pills, compared to 100 percent of the cost of my IV chemo at Dana Farber. That's a substantial out-of-pocket cost because regulations haven't kept up with new technology. As my cancer is not curable, I will have to stay on some form of treatment for the rest of my life, an expensive proposition.

 

The irony is that in terms of the cost to society, taking a pill is less expensive than receiving chemotherapy treatment in a hospital setting, typically a cost of $24,000 a visit. The cost-cutting reforms being pursued by the legislature and governor right now are aimed, in part, at moving away from costly hospital setting treatment to less expensive in-home treatment.

In addition, this legislation makes sure that all cancer treatments are covered to the same degree and encourage using dramatically lower cost pill form.

 

For all of these reasons, the legislature should pass the oral chemotherapy parity bill, now S.2360 replacing S.1070. This is the kind of regulation being supported by both sides of the aisle, as it passed through the Senate. I hope the House of Representatives sees the wisdom in giving this a big thumbs up too.

Jack Whelan

 

Cancer drug bill moves through the state Senate

Legislation that would require health insurers to cover chemotherapy equally, regardless of whether it was given intravenously or in pill form, passed the state Senate late Thursday evening and is being sent to the House.

The bill was drafted to address an inequality in cancer care: Many patients who receive chemotherapy through an infusion have their care covered by insurance or pay a copayment for their office visit, whereas pills often have higher out-of-pocket costs. The disparity has grown in importance as the trend in cancer drug development has meant a surge in treatments administered as pills. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, eight of 11 chemotherapies approved since 2010 are given in pill form.

Senator Stephen Brewer, who sponsored the bill, said that the Senate had been awaiting the outcome of a financial assessment prepared for the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy. That report found that requiring parity in coverage of chemotherapy would have minuscule effects on health care premiums, resulting in an estimated 0.008 to 0.044 percent increase over the next five years.

“As soon as we got that review . . . we realized this is eminently affordable,’’ Brewer said. “This is about trying to keep up with technology. It has minimal costs, and it’s clearly the right thing to do.’’

Jack Whelan from Andover who was diagnosed six years ago with a rare and incurable form of blood cancer, said that he has seen firsthand the disparity. Earlier on in his cancer treatment, he would receive infusion chemotherapy that was fully covered by his insurance, despite the fact that the cost was around $24,000 per visit.

Now, he said, he receives an experimental drug through a clinical trial: three pills that he takes every other week. Although he does not pay for the drug, because he is in a trial and says those costs are covered by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the pharmaceutical company, he knows that if the drug were approved, he would shoulder 30 percent of the cost of the drug, an estimated $270 to $670 per pill.

“The benefit of not having to sit in the infusion room connected to an IV pole, and going into a health care facility where already you’re immunocompromised,” Whelan said. “The idea of staying at home and taking a pill is not only convenient but safe,” as well as less expensive, he said.

Lynne Graziano Morin, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, praised the Senate’s action and said that it could make a big difference for patients. She has heard stories of people skipping doses or not taking a drug because of the expense.

“We’re just saying if they’re already covering IV therapies, we want them to cover the oral therapies the same,” Morin said.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@carolynyjohnson.

USA Today logo

Many cancer cases, now manageable,  although roadblocks remain.

Jack Whelan first knew something was wrong when it became harder and harder to walk from the train station in Boston to the financial district where he worked.  He knew something was terribly wrong when he started getting nose bleeds.

A consultation with an oncologist confirmed Whelan's fears: He had Blood cancer microscopy photo by USA Todayadvanced Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, a rare form of blood cancer that affects only about 1,500 people in the United States each year.

Forty years ago, Whelan would have had five years to live -- at the outside -- and who knows what his quality of life would have looked like.

But today, five years after his diagnosis and almost 40 years to the day that President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act declaring "war" on cancer, Whelan, 63, is power-walking, raking leaves, shoveling snow and back at work as a marketing executive.

Whelan is just one of the millions of Americans who have benefited from continued advances in cancer research. He has participated in four different clinical trials and is currently taking an experimental drug called LBH589 which, Whelan said, makes him "feel like Popeye the sailor after having spinach."

Just this month, scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where Whelan is being treated, discovered a single gene mutation present in 90 percent of patients who have this rare type of cancer, raising the hope that an even more targeted treatment will soon be able to attack the disease.  Since Dec. 23, 1971, and the passage in Congress of the National Cancer Act, research has made tremendous progress against what is still one of the world's foremost killers, experts say.

"Back at that time point, cancer essentially was a death sentence," said Dr. Raymond N. DuBois Jr., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  That's no longer the case, however, thanks to advances in early detection, improved therapies and a better understanding of the genetics driving different forms of cancer, he said.

"Forty years ago, fewer than one-third of patients with a diagnosis of cancer lived five years. Almost no children with a diagnosis of the most common form of childhood cancer, acute leukemia, lived 1/8that long3/8," said Dana-Farber president Dr. Edward Benz Jr. "In 2011, nearly 90 percent of children diagnosed with acute leukemia will be cured and nearly two-thirds of all people diagnosed with cancer will live at least five years."  Since 1991 alone, there's been more than an 18 percent reduction in deaths from cancer, added Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

Much of this progress may have started with prevention.  Declines in smoking rates, helped by the landmark U.S. Surgeon General's Report in 1964 linking smoking to cancer, have continued over the decades, preventing countless cases of lung malignancies and other forms of cancer.  Colonoscopies to detect pre-cancerous polyps have not only reduced mortality but prevented many cases of colorectal cancer outright.  The adoption of regular mammography screening for breast cancer is another success story in its own right, as is screening for cervical cancer. Thanks to, first, the Pap smear (which looks for abnormal cells on the cervix) and now the HPV test (which detects the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer), death rates from cervical cancer in the United States plummeted more than 60 percent between 1955 and 1992, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

No doubt, incidence and mortality from cervical cancer will continue to decline with the advent of another major weapon: newly approved vaccines that prevent infection with the strains of HPV that cause most cases of this type of cancer.  These vaccines (two have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) have great potential to reduce head and neck cancers, as well as anal cancer deaths, which can also be caused by HPV, Brawley said.

But advances in detection have been complemented by improvements in treatment, the experts added. These include better surgical techniques. For example, studies suggest that women who have a lumpectomy to conserve their breast along with radiation typically have as good a prognosis as women who undergo a full mastectomy.  Targeted radiation has also made treatment much less onerous for prostate cancer patients, and new chemotherapies often arrive with drastically fewer side effects than in decades past.

The age of "targeted therapies" or "personalized medicine" -- an era ushered in by anti-estrogen breast cancer therapies such as tamoxifen (which debuted in the 1980s) -- is here, Brawley said. Those highly targeted medications were later joined by aromatase inhibitors as well as Herceptin (trastuzumab) to attack a specific form of Her2neu-positive breast cancer.  Scientists are also finding new targets for lung, colorectal and other cancers. For example, studies show that Tarceva (erlotinib) can improve the average survival of patients with non-small cell lung cancer by about two months. That may not sound like much but, in lung cancer, it represents a huge stride. 

"Wonder drug" Gleevec, a medicine used to push certain blood cancers into remission, is another targeted-therapy success story. In fact, a colleague# of Whelan's was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia while still in his 20s and subsequently died. Had he been diagnosed a few years later, after the discovery of Gleevec, he would have lived, Whelan believes.

Brawley agrees that "personalized medicine is the future," and he predicts many more advances in this area in the next five years.  Dubois added: "We are doing molecular fingerprinting of each individual tumor and, although we're not using that right now to direct cancer care, the idea is once we have that information we will be able to use it to figure out exactly which treatments a patient needs so they're not being given unnecessary treatment. And the treatment they do get is going to be much more effective on the first round of therapy when it really makes the biggest difference."

Doctors now also know that "multi-modality" therapy -- meaning the combined use of surgery, radiation and drug therapy -- "has given people the best chance for good outcomes for particular kinds of cancer," said Benz.  But while there's been undisputed progress, "it's very incomplete progress," Benz and others acknowledged.

"If you look over the past 40 years, on some fronts we've actually been winning and on some fronts we're losing terribly," said Brawley. "We are our own worst enemy in terms of battling cancer with tobacco control, diet and exercise and getting everybody adequate preventive screening and treatment.  "In excess of 200,000 of the 500,000 lives that will be lost from cancer this year could have been avoided if we simply adopted all the cancer-control technologies that we've learned over the last 40 years," he added.  Although the smoking rate has declined dramatically since publication of the U.S. Surgeon General's 1964 report, it's been stalled at about 20 percent for 10 years now, Brawley said.

There are also lingering disparities in both prevention and treatment by race, socioeconomic status and urban versus rural locations, said Brawley. Cancer therapies are also becoming increasingly complicated and expensive "at a time when the trend in health care and in support for cancer research is going down," added Benz. "I worry that we're going to see increasing disparities as cancer and personalized medicine becomes more complicated and expensive. It will be harder and harder to offer it to everybody who needs it."

Clinical trials may also become more difficult and expensive  conduct, as scientists recognize more and more subtypes of cancer. That means fewer people fit each particular subtype, Benz said.  Nevertheless, the overall message is a positive one.  "It's been a huge evolution since 1971," said DuBois. "It's just incredible."

Whelan is just one of the millions of Americans who have benefited from continued advances in cancer research.

# The colleague mentioned is Anthony S. (Tony) DiRusso, then 24 of Leominster, MA a college intern at that time with Xyplex Inc of Burlington, MA 

 On the Web:

There's more on the National Cancer Act at the U.S. National Cancer Institute:http://legislative.cancer.gov/history/phsa/1971

Copyright 2011 HealthDay. All Rights Reserved.

HealthDay

40 Years On, the Triumphs and Challenges of America's 'War on Cancer'

In many cases, what was a death sentence is now a manageable condition, although roadblocks remain

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Jack Whelan first knew something was wrong when it got harder and harder to walk from the train station in Boston to the financial district where he worked.

He knew something was terribly wrong when he started getting nose bleeds.

A consultation with an oncologist confirmed Whelan's fears: He had advanced Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, a rare form of blood cancer that affects only about 1,500 people in the United States each year.

Forty years ago, Whelan would have had five years to live -- at the outside -- and who knows what his quality of life would have looked like.

But today, five years after his diagnosis and almost 40 years to the day that President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act declaring "war" on cancer, Whelan, 63, is power-walking, raking leaves, shoveling snow and back at work as a marketing executive.

Whelan is just one of the millions of Americans who have benefited from continued advances in cancer research. He has participated in four different clinical trials and is currently taking an experimental drug called LBH589 which, Whelan said, makes him "feel like Popeye the sailor after having spinach."

Just this month, scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where Whelan is being treated, discovered a single gene mutation present in 90 percent of patients who have this rare type of cancer, raising the hope that an even more targeted treatment will soon be able to attack the disease.

Since Dec. 23, 1971, and the passage in Congress of the National Cancer Act, research has made tremendous progress against what is still one of the world's foremost killers, experts say.

"Back at that time point, cancer essentially was a death sentence," said Dr. Raymond N. DuBois Jr., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

That's no longer the case, however, thanks to advances in early detection, improved therapies and a better understanding of the genetics driving different forms of cancer, he said.

"Forty years ago, fewer than one-third of patients with a diagnosis of cancer lived five years. Almost no children with a diagnosis of the most common form of childhood cancer, acute leukemia, lived [that long]," said Dana-Farber president Dr. Edward Benz Jr. "In 2011, nearly 90 percent of children diagnosed with acute leukemia will be cured and nearly two-thirds of all people diagnosed with cancer will live at least five years."

Since 1991 alone, there's been more than an 18 percent reduction in deaths from cancer, added Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

An ounce of prevention

Much of this progress may have started with prevention.

Declines in smoking rates, helped by the landmark U.S. Surgeon General's Report in 1964 linking smoking to cancer, have continued over the decades, preventing countless cases of lung malignancies and other forms of cancer.

Colonoscopies to detect pre-cancerous polyps have not only reduced mortality but prevented many cases of colorectal cancer outright.

The adoption of regular mammography screening for breast cancer is another success story in its own right, as is screening for cervical cancer.

Thanks to, first, the Pap smear (which looks for abnormal cells on the cervix) and now the HPV test (which detects the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer), death rates from cervical cancer in the United States plummeted more than 60 percent between 1955 and 1992, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

No doubt, incidence and mortality from cervical cancer will continue to decline with the advent of another major weapon: newly approved vaccines that prevent infection with the strains of HPV that cause most cases of this type of cancer.

These vaccines (two have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) have great potential to reduce head and neck cancers, as well as anal cancer deaths, which can also be caused by HPV, Brawley said.

But advances in detection have been complemented by improvements in treatment, the experts added. These include better surgical techniques. For example, studies suggest that women who have a lumpectomy to conserve their breast along with radiation typically have as good a prognosis as women who undergo a full mastectomy.

Targeted radiation has also made treatment much less onerous for prostate cancer patients, and new chemotherapies often arrive with drastically fewer side effects than in decades past.

The age of "targeted therapies" or "personalized medicine" -- an era ushered in by anti-estrogen breast cancer therapies such as tamoxifen (which debuted in the 1980s) -- is here, Brawley said. Those highly targeted medications were later joined by aromatase inhibitors as well as Herceptin (trastuzumab) to attack a specific form of Her2neu-positive breast cancer.

Scientists are also finding new targets for lung, colorectal and other cancers. For example, studies show that Tarceva (erlotinib) can improve the average survival of patients with non-small cell lung cancer by about two months. That may not sound like much but, in lung cancer, it represents a huge stride.

"Wonder drug" Gleevec, a medicine used to push certain blood cancers into remission, is another targeted-therapy success story. In fact, a colleague of Whelan's was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia while still in his 20s and subsequently died. Had he been diagnosed a few years later, after the discovery of Gleevec, he would have lived, Whelan believes.

Brawley agrees that "personalized medicine is the future," and he predicts many more advances in this area in the next five years.

Dubois added: "We are doing molecular fingerprinting of each individual tumor and, although we're not using that right now to direct cancer care, the idea is once we have that information we will be able to use it to figure out exactly which treatments a patient needs so they're not being given unnecessary treatment. And the treatment they do get is going to be much more effective on the first round of therapy when it really makes the biggest difference."

Doctors now also know that "multi-modality" therapy -- meaning the combined use of surgery, radiation and drug therapy -- "has given people the best chance for good outcomes for particular kinds of cancer," said Benz.

Progress lacking on some fronts

But while there's been undisputed progress, "it's very incomplete progress," Benz and others acknowledged.

"If you look over the past 40 years, on some fronts we've actually been winning and on some fronts we're losing terribly," said Brawley. "We are our own worst enemy in terms of battling cancer with tobacco control, diet and exercise and getting everybody adequate preventive screening and treatment.

"In excess of 200,000 of the 500,000 lives that will be lost from cancer this year could have been avoided if we simply adopted all the cancer-control technologies that we've learned over the last 40 years," he added.

Although the smoking rate has declined dramatically since publication of the U.S. Surgeon General's 1964 report, it's been stalled at about 20 percent for 10 years now, Brawley said.

There are also lingering disparities in both prevention and treatment by race, socioeconomic status and urban versus rural locations, said Brawley.

Cancer therapies are also becoming increasingly complicated and expensive "at a time when the trend in health care and in support for cancer research is going down," added Benz. "I worry that we're going to see increasing disparities as cancer and personalized medicine becomes more complicated and expensive. It will be harder and harder to offer it to everybody who needs it."

Clinical trials may also become more difficult and expensive to conduct, as scientists recognize more and more subtypes of cancer. That means fewer people fit each particular subtype, Benz said.

Nevertheless, the overall message is a positive one.

"It's been a huge evolution since 1971," said DuBois. "It's just incredible."

More information

There's more on the National Cancer Act at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCES: Jack Whelan, Andover, Mass.; Raymond N. DuBois Jr., M.D., Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Edward Benz Jr., M.D., president, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer, American Cancer Society

Last Updated: Dec. 21, 2011

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved

NESN logo

Jack Whelan Maintains Positive Outlook on Life, Praises Dana-Farber's Team for Hard Work

An interview (video) with Jack Whelan conducted by Tom Caron (TC) sportscaster and anchor on New England's NESN Television Network.

Growing up, Jack Whelan collected phonograph records, a tradition he acquired from his family. He also learned to give to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Whelan has since been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. At first, the future didn't look good. But with Whelan's positive attitude, family support and the hard work of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, he said that he now feels better than ever. To hear more about Whelan's story, check out the video above.

Read more and see video at: http://www.nesn.com/2011/08/jack-whelan-maintains-positive-outlook-on-life-praises-dana-farbers-team-for-hard-work.html