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Progress in cancer treatment has saved 3.5 million lives since 1991, experts say

According to new research, the last decade has seen “unprecedented progress” in the treatment of cancer, and more people than ever are surviving the disease, reports CBS News.

Annual statistics reported by the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that the U.S. cancer death rate has declined by 32% from 1991 to 2019 – a decrease that the ACS says saved 3.5 million lives.

“The U.S. cancer death rate is steadily declining, and more people than ever before are living longer and fuller lives after a cancer diagnosis,” states this year’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Progress Report. “In fact, the number of children and adults living with a history of cancer exceeded a record 18 million in January 2022.”

Research into cancer-fighting has led to a number of recent innovations. Between August 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration approved “eight new anticancer therapeutics, 10 already approved therapeutics for use for new cancer types, and two new diagnostic imaging agents,” according to CBS News.

Earlier this week, researchers announced that they have genetically modified a herpes virus to direct an antibody to infect and destroy tumors. About 40 patients have tried the treatment as part of clinical trials, reports the BBC. Lead researcher Kevin Harrington told the BBC the treatment responses seen were “truly impressive” across a range of advanced cancers. “It is rare to see such good response rates in early-stage clinical trials, as their primary aim is to test treatment safety, and they involve patients with very advanced cancers for whom current treatments have stopped working,” Harrington said.

Dr. Marianne Baker, of Cancer Research UK, said this discovery is just the start. “Scientists discovered that viruses could help to treat cancer 100 years ago, but it’s been challenging to harness them safely and effectively,” Baker said to the BBC. “This new viral therapy shows promise in a small-scale early trial – now we need more studies to find out how well it works.”

In just the past year, the number of cancer survivors has increased by more than a million.

Cancer is still the second-biggest cause of death in the U.S., killing an estimated 602,350 people in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, researchers are optimistic that the rate of people surviving the disease will only continue to accelerate.