​​Risk of Cancer Death on a Downward Trajectory

The risk of dying from cancer continues to decline in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society’s annual report on cancer statistics. Highlights of the report, covered in an article ​from CNN on Jan. 12, include a 32% decline in the overall cancer death rate since its peak in 1991, driven in large part by advances in the early detection and treatment of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. Deb Schrag, chair of the medical department of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, told CNN that continuing progress will require sustained efforts to advance prevention, screening and treatment. “I’m an oncologist, so I’m an inveterate optimist. But I think the key message for the public is that there’s room for optimism across all types of cancer,” Schrag said.

More Than a Third of Patients Lost to Follow-Up in “Real-World” Study of Active Surveillance

A “real-world” study ​on the use of active surveillance in people with sentinel lymph node-positive early melanoma found that over a third of patients were lost to follow up, MedPage Today reported on Jan. 10. An earlier trial​, the Multicenter Sele​ctive Lymphadenectomy Trial (MSLT-II), found that only 6% of people in active surveillance during the trial were lost to follow-up. The more recent study, which looked at how active surveillance worked outside the controls of a clinical trial, suggests the loss rate may be higher in the conditions that most people receive treatment. The study was small: 53 people agreed to active surveillance, 17 of whom were lost to follow-up. “Active surveillance strategies hold great potential for advancing cancer care through decreased morbidity, but to realize their full potential, much more work is needed to define best practices for these approaches,” the study authors concluded.

Surgery Helps Some Patients When Ovarian Cancer Returns

A new trial found that for a select group of people, surgery to treat recurrent ovarian cancer lengthens survival over chemotherapy alone, the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Currents blog reports​. Ovarian cancer returns in over 70% of cases after initial treatment. Surgery is an option for these patients to remove as much cancer as possible before starting chemotherapy, but it’s not clear from current research if the surgery leads to people living longer. At least two other recent studies have had conflicting results, though the patient populations differed for each study. In this most recent study, called DESKTOP III, researchers sought to identify people who were most likely to benefit from surgery, excluding patients with certain signs that cancer had spread more widely. The story quoted Ginger Gardner, a gynecologic oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, who was not involved with any of the studies, saying that health care providers need as many trea​​​tment options as possible to deliver the best care and “surgery should be part of our toolbox for achieving the best result for our patients.”