We need to take action on less survivable cancers now. To close the gap we need to:

Raise awareness of symptoms

Despite accounting for 51.1% of common cancer deaths  the less survivable cancers still suffer from low awareness amongst the public and health practitioners. Delays in diagnosis have a detrimental effect on survival of these rapidly-advancing diseases, which are currently difficult or impossible to treat at later stages.

Take action

  • Propose research that will help to catch the Taskforce cancers earlier.
Speed up paths to treatment

If you have a less survivable cancer, you are twice as likely not to be diagnosed until you are in enough pain to go to A&E, compared to someone with a more survivable cancer. Late diagnosis and slow progress to treatment can severely limit treatment options for patients, who then face poorer survival prospects at 12, 24, and 36 months onwards.

Relationship between diagnosis through emergency routes and length of survival. Data combined from the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS), England. Simon, A. E. et al. Knowledge of lung cancer symptoms and risk factors in the U.K.: development of a measure and results from a population-based survey. Thorax 67, 426-432, doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200898 (2012).

To follow the footsteps of more survivable cancers, trials of screening higher-risk individuals and fast-tracking patients with relevant symptoms should take place.

Take action

  • Propose research to evaluate innovations in early diagnosis and treatment pathways for less survivable cancers.
Remove barriers to treatments and trials

The investment in innovation needed to increase survival will only occur if funders feel that their pounds will have impact. Evidence shows there are fewer approved trials for less survivable cancers.

Number of clinical trials by cancer type that currently recruit patients in UK. Horizontal dashed lines demonstrate the average number of clinical trials between the more survivable cancers (upper line) and the less survivable cancers (lower line). Taken from CRUK website, ‘Find a clinical trial’,

Budgeting barriers need to be removed that make treatments such as specialised neuro-rehab available only to a minority. Technology Appraisals need to value relative survival gains as well as absolute, and appreciate the challenges of running trials for diseases with high short-term mortality rates. Only then will life-extending treatments be made available to more patients in need.

Take action

  • Support Taskforce charities’ campaigns to increase participation in clinical trials.
Share data and set Government-backed survival targets for each cancer

For example, NHS England’s first edition Cancer Dashboard currently only offers data for four cancers, and its overall cancer survival ambition is not broken down on a per-cancer basis. Making data available will be critical if we are to track success in improving outcomes for the less survivable cancers.

Take action

  • Apply to conduct research analysing available data for the less survivable cancers.
Increase investment in research and improve infrastructure

It is no wonder that cancers with better research funding and infrastructure, such as researcher expertise and biobanking, have seen greater innovations in care and improvements in survival.

Between 2002 and 2014, the less survivable cancers received just 16.6% of research funding of common cancers and became responsible for 51.1% of common cancer deaths in the UK in 2014. Greater research will be critical to increasing survival.

Total research funding of common cancers between 2002 and 2014 in UK. Horizontal dashed lines demonstrate the average funding spent on research between the more survivable cancers (upper line) and the less survivable cancers (lower line). More survivable cancers receive on average at least 3 times less research funding compared to less survivable cancers. Analytics were performed after a compilation of data taken from NCRI via private communication.

Take action

  • Apply to conduct research and improve infrastructure for Taskforce cancers, and encourage others to do the same.


We need to take action on less survivable cancers now

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