CEO´s Point of View: Oncocheck in the war on cancer
In 1971, Richard Nixon declared a “war on cancer” in approving the National Cancer Act and despite the many billions that have been invested since that time; cancer incidence has continued to steadily increase. As we look forward nearly 50 years later, and with an increasing understanding of the genetic underpinnings of cancer and emerging technologies such as TAT®, we hope that together we will gradually be able to turn the tide on what has proven to be a very long, costly and difficult war.
Life Length’s ONCOCHECK study, the largest study ever conducted involving cancer and TAV’ (Telomere-Associated Variables) responds to a desire to contribute to the battle in the world’s most expensive and intractable disease: cancer. It is estimated that there are currently more than 30 million people in the world living with cancer and that more than 14 million will be diagnosed in 2018 while around 8.8 million will die from this disease. The global costs for cancer treatments is predicted to exceed $150 billion by 2020.
While there are well over 200 types of cancer. Most cancers can be characterized by a few common traits:
The frequency and risk of developing cancer is directly correlated with age. While, of course, children and young adults do develop cancer, statistically the risk of neoplasia increases as we get older.
Cancer is rarely caused by a single factor; rather it occurs through the combination of genetic and epigenetic factors, along with external agents from the environment (i.e. sun exposure, pollution, etc.) and life-style factors (smoking, obesity, etc.).
Each individuals’ cancer is unique – due to the complex mutations that give rise to cancer and so it is the immune response of each individual to it no two cancers are ever exactly alike.
As a result of the above, in a global society in which people are living longer than ever, incidences of cancer will continue to inexorably rise. In the past, cancer was less prevalent because so many individuals died from other diseases first – the flu, polio, smallpox and other diseases that are caused by a single factor – often viral or bacterial. Due to the enormous progress of science and medicine in the past 100 years, these diseases no longer impact us as they did before and, thus, chronic and age-related diseases including not only cancer but cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases (diabetes, kidney and liver diseases) have increasingly emerged as the primary causes that lead to mortality.
Because cancer is so individual and its onset can be so subtle, it very too often goes undiagnosed until its progression is such that treatment options are limited, expensive and, sadly, frequently offering little chance of long-term survival. And even when diagnosed, oncologists often face a conundrum that, without knowing the prognosis of how a particular patient’s cancer will progress, it is often difficult to chart the best treatment plan, especially when the pressures on physicians are not only clinical and medical but also financial given that cancer is, by far, the most expensive disease to treat with an estimated per patient annual cost that can reach $475,000.
For all of these reasons, the field of cancer diagnostics is among the most heavily researched area in laboratory medicine as we seek to find better, more sensitive and more accurate tests that will allow for the detection of cancer in its earliest stages when treatments options are broader as well as to create more personalized and tailored treatment plans responding to prognosis of an individual’s specific cancer.
Stephen J. Matlin, Chairman and CEO