(p. 5) The reason is a new generation of cancer treatments that have become available in recent years. Some, called immunotherapy, harness the patient’s own immune system to battle a tumor. Others, known as targeted therapies, block certain molecules that cancers depend on to grow and spread. The medical literature — usually circumspect when it comes to cancer, in light of many overhyped treatments in the past — now fairly gushes with terms like “revolutionary” and “cure.” In this case, the hype feels mostly justified.
. . .
A recent analysis estimated that about 15 percent of patients with advanced cancer might benefit from immunotherapy — and it’s all but impossible to determine which patients will be the lucky ones. Just last week, a study of lung cancer patients demonstrated the overall benefits of combining immunotherapy with traditional chemotherapy. But here, too, the researchers noted that most patients will not respond to the new treatments, and it is not yet possible to predict who will benefit. In some cases, the side effects are terrible — different from those of chemotherapy but often just as dire.
For the full commentary, see:
Robert M. Wachter. “The Problem With Miracle Cancer Cures.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, April 21, 2018): 5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 19, 2018.)
The claim that only 15% benefit, made above, is based on the following:
Howard, Jacqueline. “Hope and Hype around Cancer Immunotherapy.” CNN, Weds., Sept. 27, 2017.
GAY, NATHAN, and VINAY PRASAD. “First Opinion; Few People Actually Benefit from ‘Breakthrough’ Cancer Immunotherapy.” March 8, 2017.