Blood cancers

Cancer report highlights survival gains in blood cancers

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma have been identified as two cancers that have achieved the most significant improvements in survival over time.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report Cancer in Australia 2017 said non-Hodgkin lymphoma survival rates had improved from a 48% five-year survival in the 1980s to the current 74%.

The report estimated 5,563 new cases of the disease in 2017 and 1,434 deaths.

Professor Andrew Roberts, head of clinical translation at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, told the limbic the gains were almost solely due to the development of targeted therapies, especially for B cell lymphomas.

“Survival doesn’t reflect cure though, and with the increasing incidence of lymphoma there are large numbers of patients living with a potentially long disease course,” he said.

The AIHW report said non-Hodgkin lymphoma remained in the top 10 causes of non-fatal cancer burden.

Survival after a diagnosis of multiple myeloma improved by a similar magnitude to non-Hodgkin lymphoma – although starting from a much lower base – up from 27% in the 1980s to 48%.

“Marked improvements in multiple myeloma have been due to the cumulative benefits of multiple new treatments that work in ways other than standard DNA-damaging chemotherapy,” Professor Roberts said.

“The sequence of improvement includes autologous stem cell transplantation, regular bisphosphonates to reduce skeletal complications, immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors.”

An estimated 1,816 individuals would be diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2017 and 972 would die from the disease, the AIHW report said.

Professor Roberts said the formulae for future success in treating blood cancers did not change – ongoing support for basic research into the biology of disease and careful clinical trials.

Kidney and prostate cancers were also highlighted in the report for significant improvements in survival.

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