Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the deregulated growth and spread of abnormal cells. As cancer progresses, malignant cancer cells invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer cells that spread to other parts of the body are called metastases. Cancers are named after the part of the body where they start. For example, cancer that starts in the bladder but spreads to the lung is called bladder cancer with lung metastases.
Frequently, metastases will be present even before the patient’s cancer is first diagnosed. Otherwise metastases may develop later despite successful treatment of the original tumor. Metastases become increasingly resistant to available treatments so that continued growth and spread of metastases steadily increases the total cancer burden on the patient. Eventually, the patient is overwhelmed with increasing weakness and tissue damage, ultimately leading to organ failure and death. Metastatic cancer is the cause of most cancer patient deaths and it is estimated that a total of 1,596,670 new cancer cases and 571,950 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the United States in 2011 and a total of 186400 new cancer cases and 75700 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the Canada in 2012.
There are indications that modern treatments can improve outlooks for patients with some types of cancers, particularly children, but also adults with cancers such as those originating in the breast and colon. Although a diversity of therapeutic approaches will likely be key to major improvements in cancer patients’ outcomes in the coming years, the ability of cancer cells to spread as metastases and to be or to become treatment resistant means that new, more active agents are desperately needed to help improve patient survival.
Driven by unmet medical need and scientific improvements, the discovery and development of new therapeutic drugs and approaches for the treatment of metastatic and resistant cancers will be key to improving cancer patients’ outcome.
Comprehensive information about cancer and cancer research can be found at:
U.S. National Cancer Institute
Cancer Research UK