By Sanna Anjum, Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, CSL
In the UK, it is estimated that approximately 2.9 million people are currently living with cancer, with a forecast of over 5 million by 2040. Although a number of risk factors are associated with cancer, such as family history and lifestyle, age is proving to be the most dominant influence in the UK; more than 75% of all people diagnosed with cancer are aged 60 and over. Over time, mutations accumulate in DNA which can trigger a cell towards becoming cancerous therefore a general increase in lifespan can be correlated with overall cancer risk. With cancer incidence rising by almost 40% in the last 20 years, and prevalence forecasted to rise by an astounding 83% in the next 20 years, the nation’s focus will undoubtedly be on whether enhanced treatment innovations will help lessen the impact of this vicious disease.
The 4 most common types of cancer in the UK are breast, lung, prostate and colorectal, amounting to almost 60% of the total 2020 prevalence. As depicted by the graph below, unfortunately this prevalence is not likely to reduce in the coming years. Both breast and prostate cancer cases are likely to double by 2040, with lung and colorectal cancer seeing a forecasted increase of 78% and 85% respectively.
Considering this projection, a question remains around whether the NHS is equipped to deal with such an influx in patient care. With NHS waiting times playing a key role in current affairs, it’s clear the country is already facing challenges. As illustrated by the graph below, there is a clear correlation between cancer referrals and cancer detection rates in England. This not only reinforces the need for consistent patient care, but also raises the question of whether overall waiting times from diagnosis to treatment, combined with the prominent backlog post Covid-19, will impact mortality rates across the nation.
 This data has been provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support. It is sourced from NHS Digital, and NHS England and NHS Improvement and collated, maintained and quality assured by the National Disease Registration Service, which is part of NHS Digital.
With cancer prevalence predicted to almost double in coming years, let’s take a closer look at 2 key breakthroughs which offer a sense of hope to current and future patients in need.
Genetic testing is used to search for inherited mutations in DNA, which potentially raise the risk of developing cancer. Although genetic testing informs patients whether they have a higher risk of developing cancer, results can be inconclusive i.e., a mutation may be identified, but the effects of the mutation may remain unknown. Despite this, a clear advantage of genetic testing is that individuals are able to take steps in managing the risk of developing cancer, such as a change in lifestyle choice, regular screening and preventative treatment such as medication or surgery.
With the number of diagnosed malignant staged cancers continuously trending upwards year over year in England , genetic testing could undoubtedly facilitate with potential early identification of cancer, thereby immediately allowing patients to manage their treatment journey accordingly.
 This work uses data that has been provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support. The data are collated, maintained and quality assured by the National Disease Registration Service, which is part of NHS Digital.
Targeted therapy involves searching for abnormalities in a patient’s tumour and matching them with immunotherapies which specifically target them. Immunotherapies, such as CAR-T cell therapy, essentially stimulate your body to fight cancer itself. Types of targeted therapy include cancer growth blockers, drugs which block cancer blood vessel growth and monoclonal antibodies. This approach stops cancer cells from growing and dividing, seeks out cancer cells and kills them, and can also help carry other treatments, such as chemotherapy, directly to cancer cells. Although this has undoubtedly been a key development in the ongoing battle against cancer, the treatment can be ineffective on a number of patients due to a protective barrier of cells called Cancer Assisted Fibroblasts (CAFs) surrounding tumours. However, a recent study has found that CAFs are regulated by a protein called ATM which controls DNA repair – blocking this protein prevents the CAF barrier from forming, thereby giving the immunotherapy a greater chance of treating the patient as intended.
When analysing national cancer treatment journeys from 2013-2019, 48% of tumours are treated with a single treatment regime, with other care amounting to 33% . As depicted in the graph below, this is likely due to their heightened use in stage 1 and stage 4 cancer treatments. As new innovations emerge, will we see an alteration to treatment regimens across stages?
 This work has been produced as part of the Cancer Research UK – NHS Digital Partnership. This work uses data collected by the NHS, as part of the care and support of cancer patients.
2022 has been a great year for oncology breakthroughs; from the emergence of new treatments available via the NHS, to prolific clinical trials held by charitable organisations in conjunction with pharma companies, it’s clear that beating cancer is in the forefront of people’s minds. With 1 in 2 people likely to develop a form of cancer during their lifetime, scientific advances are needed now more than ever.
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