For my last blog, I thought I would write about the future. But first I’d like to talk about the past.
I started my career as an oncologist 20 years ago. At that time, it was all about chemotherapy. But since then, we’ve seen incredible advancements in targeted therapy with drugs designed to inhibit pathways activated by cancers that help them grow, divide and spread. In the last few years, we’ve also seen major advancements in immunotherapy - harnessing the body’s immune system to recognize and target the cancer.
When I started, we had one drug treatment for advanced prostate cancer that was resistant to hormone therapy that was modestly effective at helping symptoms, and now we have five therapies that extended overall survival.
We’ve been part of the development of these therapies, which means many patients were able to get access to these then-promising therapies through participating in clinical trials years before the treatments were approved.
When I first started seeing patients with advanced prostate cancer, the prognosis was typically measured in months, now we talk about years.
So what does the next 20 years bring?
I think we will see cures for more people, and if not a cure we are going to be turning more and more cancers into chronic diseases that we can contain and control, so people can otherwise live normal lives.
But this will only happen if we continue our research efforts, from dissecting out the intricate biology of the disease, to developing and testing new treatments, understanding who benefits the most from these treatments, and how to deliver them in the most effective manner in a caring and patient centred approach.
Certainly, BC Cancer and the BC Cancer Foundation have been major leaders in many of these fronts. I am really proud to be part of the team and a leader of a great group of folks at the Vancouver Centre.
It was my pleasure blogging for you this month. Thank you for reading.
Dr. Kim Chi