Americans Optimistic About War On Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Despite it being the number two killer in our nation, Americans are very optimistic about the war against cancer.

In fact, according to a recent nationwide survey sponsored by Abbott, nearly two-thirds (64%) believe the scientific community is winning the war against cancer.

"As an organization researching new options to fight cancer, Abbott (NYSE: ABT) is hopeful that its efforts will live up to the optimism expressed by Americans regarding the future of cancer therapy," said John Leonard, M.D., vice president, Global Research and Development, Abbott. "With cancer accounting for nearly 25 percent of all deaths in the United States, we're focused on investigating targeted, less toxic therapies that fill unmet treatment needs."

While most Americans believe that cancer breakthroughs are on the horizon, less than half think a major breakthrough is near. Four out of five (82%) surveyed expect to see new breakthroughs in the next 25 years, but only 42 percent see those breakthroughs occurring in the next decade.

The survey results come just before the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting commences in Chicago on June 1. Leading cancer researchers come together each year at the ASCO Annual Meeting to share medical advances and revolutionary approaches to cancer treatment. During the meeting, scientists from independent academic institutions and Abbott will present data on several of Abbott's investigational anti-cancer compounds including a PARP inhibitor (ABT-888) that seeks to enhance the effectiveness of common cancer therapies, a multi-targeted kinase inhibitor (ABT-869) being investigated to suppress tumor growth by cutting off its blood supply and an antimitotic agent (ABT-751) that has shown early promise in the treatment of pediatric neuroblastoma. In addition, an Abbott scientist will lead an educational session on Abbott's Bcl-2 family protein inhibitors (ABT-263) which restore apoptosis -- the natural process by which damaged or unwanted cells die and are cleared from the body.

According to the survey, Americans also recognize that progress in the fight against cancer is already being made. Four out of five (83%) believe the chances of surviving cancer are better now than they were ten years ago. And almost half (48%) think the chances of survival are "much better" today.

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"Abbott has several promising anti-cancer compounds in its oncology pipeline that may prove to be very effective in the fight against cancer," said Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., divisional vice president, Cancer Research, Abbott. "We are committed to exploring new cutting-edge therapies that may enable patients to live longer and healthier lives. Our strategy involves targeting the differences between cancer cells and normal cells and taking away the key fundamental needs of cancer."

More than 1,000 respondents participated in the telephone survey sponsored by Abbott. The goal of the survey was to assess Americans' perceptions of cancer research and their outlook regarding new treatments. Opinion Research Corporation conducted the research.

Apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death, is the natural process by which damaged or unwanted cells, including those that are or couldbecome cancerous, die and are cleared from the body. The Bcl-2 family proteins, which are found in many tumors, play a central role in regulating apoptosis and, consequently, in tumor formation, tumor growth and resistance to treatment. Researchers have been interested in the Bcl-2 proteins since their role in preventing apoptosis was proven more than a decade ago. Pioneering work in structural biology at Abbott established how Bcl-2 family proteins interact with one another, thereby setting the stage for Abbott researchers to develop a novel compound that causes cancer cells to self-destruct.

Discovered by Abbott scientists, ABT-263 restores programmed cell death by inhibiting the function of Bcl-2 proteins. Pre-clinical data has shown that Abbott's Bcl-2 family protein inhibitors effectively kill certain cancer cell types. Additionally, Abbott's Bcl-2 family inhibitors have been studied for their effects along with chemotherapy and radiation in other types of cancer, such as non-small cell lung cancer. ABT-263 recently entered Phase I clinical trials for lymphomas, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and solid tumors, including small cell lung cancer.

Oncology researchers are currently developing agents that target kinases, a class of enzymes that are often overly activated in cancer patients. ABT-869 inhibits a unique set of kinases that are involved in angiogenesis, a process by which tumors gain access to blood vessels. Inhibition of these kinases suppresses tumor growth by cutting off tumor blood supply. ABT-869 is currently in Phase I clinical trials for solid tumors and selected hematologic malignancies such as leukemia. Phase II clinical trials in several tumor types will begin this year.

DNA damaging agents remain some of the most successful treatments for cancer. The enzyme Poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (abbreviated PARP) can help repair DNA damage caused by these agents used to treat cancer and render them ineffective. As PARP activity is often increased in cancer cells, it provides these cells with a survival mechanism.

ABT-888 is an oral PARP-inhibitor developed and being studied by Abbott researchers to prevent DNA repair in cancer cells and increase the effectiveness of common cancer therapies such as radiation and alkylating agents.

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