Alton B. Kremer, MD, PhD
Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Medical Officer, Oncology Business Group, Eisai Inc.
ResponseABILITY is brought to you by Eisai to help shed light on the impact of treatment response on patients with cancer and their families and the physicians who treat them
Enormous progress has been made in cancer treatment over the past decades. An explosion of research on the biology and genetics of cancer has led to the development of a new arsenal of next-generation therapies that work differently than traditional cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. These new agents have markedly improved patient outcomes across a wide range of tumor types, transforming cancer treatment as well as the expectations for survival.
In this evolving era in cancer therapy, how do clinicians judge a treatment’s efficacy? More and more, they are using tumor response – the destruction or significant reduction of a cancerous mass – for making decisions about treatment options. For one, a response is tangible evidence of improvement. Patients may get relief from certain symptoms, as shrinkage can relieve the pressure and pain from tumors pressing on nerves or organs. Further, they can literally see the results on scans: as the tumor continues to get smaller from one doctor’s visit to the next, it suggests the patient is responding to treatment. In my experience, patients reap tremendous mental and emotional benefits from this progress.
Secondly, the use of tumor response is a practical and straightforward way for clinicians to educate and guide the patient throughout their treatment journey. The concept is readily available in a cancer patient’s vocabulary; there’s a palpable relief when they hear their cancer is responding to treatment. In contrast, terms like “progression-free survival” and “overall survival” are more abstract and while they are extremely important and improving overall survival is our ultimate objective as well as the gold standard for efficacy, patients can’t see or feel them.
Response also provides a psychological benefit to the practitioner. When I was a practicing pediatric oncologist, one of my greatest joys was informing parents when their child was responding to treatment and their tumors were shrinking. Nothing was more uplifting than seeing their reaction to the possibility that they were winning a fight against the cancer and that their son or daughter might be on the road to becoming free of cancer. I believe many oncologists share this sentiment about communicating positive treatment results to their patients.
In my view, the ability to convey treatment success based on tumor response is a win-win for both the patient who has cancer and the practitioner. Put the two terms together and you have “ResponseABILITY” – the obligation and the reward of helping patients with cancer gain in their fight so they can feel better, live their everyday lives and spend more time with their loved ones.
It’s an exciting time in cancer research. Cutting-edge discoveries are redefining traditional measures of prognosis and treatment response and broadening the use of cancer medicines for appropriate patients. New classes of drugs, led by targeted therapies that inhibit molecular pathways and immunotherapies that enlist the body’s defenses to fight cancer, are providing sustained and durable responses that allow patients to live longer and maintain a better quality of life, especially compared to anti-cancer treatments of the past. I believe the next 10 years will bring even more success, as new therapeutic options being tested as single agents or in combination with other treatments – especially targeted and immunotherapies taken together – may offer further clinical benefit to patients.
In this era of improved cancer treatment outcomes, we at Eisai Oncology are hard at work seeking to turn scientific discoveries into important medicines for the neediest patients. We are dedicated to advancing the next generation of cancer therapies, which we hope may lead to longer-lasting responses, prolonged survival, and better quality of life for patients with cancer. Our first thought always go to patients and their families and helping to increase the benefits health care provides. We look forward to having an ongoing dialogue around the impact of treatment response in patients with cancer, and to its significance in guiding Eisai’s unwavering commitment to improving patient care.