There has been widespread coverage of figures showing that 96 per cent of men survive testicular cancer in the UK (1). When we compare this figure to the 1970s, when less than 70 per cent of men survived the disease (2), the scale of this success story becomes apparent.
Improvements in survival will undoubtedly be due to a combination of factors, including improved public awareness about the signs and symptoms of the cancer, earlier diagnosis by clinicians, and improved treatment for the condition. As the Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK states, the chemotherapy drug cisplatin has been crucial in helping people beat testicular cancer over recent years. The charity itself helped research and develop the treatment, citing it as a "shining example of what we can achieve through dedicated research" (3).
Such stories emphasise the real value behind the research and development (R&D) of innovative medicines. From ‘bench to bedside’, life-changing and life-saving medicines have a huge impact on patients, and stories like this must be celebrated and encouraged. The pharmaceutical industry in the UK is committed to the R&D of new medicines. We invest £13.3 million each day into researching new medicines in the UK (4), accounting for 28% of R&D expenditure in the economy – more than any other sector (5). I have blogged before about the value of collaborative research with public and private sector organisations, and the ABPI is committed to working with relevant partners to ensure we do all we can to develop innovative treatments to effectively and efficiently meet unmet need.
However, the UK pharmaceutical industry is today facing an increasingly challenging environment. The UK’s global share of clinical trials has fallen in recent years (6) and it faces slower adoption of new medicines compared with many other European countries (7). This story therefore emphasises two imperatives: that the UK must continue to support the R&D of new medicines in the UK, and patients must be able to access innovative medicines which meet areas of unmet need across the NHS. In cancer specifically, a number of uncertainties remain, not least the future of the cancer drugs fund, and NICE appraisals of cancer medicines under new pricing arrangements from January 2014.
Such uncertainties must be addressed if the pharmaceutical industry is to continue investing in the UK. Here’s hoping the news on testicular cancer survival is one of many more to come.
Stephen WhiteheadABPI Chief Executive