Experts Weigh in on the Progress of Cancer Research

ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the AACR Cancer Progress Report.
24:27 | 09/16/14

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Transcript for Experts Weigh in on the Progress of Cancer Research
Good afternoon I'm -- rich -- chief health and medical editor and ABC news today we have a special live stream broadcast. We're -- we're doing a Twitter chat right now with the association for the American association for cancer research on their new progress report for cancer. And here -- this live stream I'm going to be talking to four experts in cancer research laying out where we're making progress in cancer research -- where those gaps currently are. I -- if you have questions you -- opposed to any of our experts please tweeted to us at ABC doctor beach yet. And then join the Twitter chat there and you'll see there's a very robust conversation going on right now let me begin by introducing our our four panelists. We have doctor Otis Brawley who is the chief medical officer for the American kansas' -- as society. Great to see you -- I haven't. We have doctor Edith Perez -- deputy director at large that Mayo Clinic cancer -- Baghdad here. You and I'll introduce -- two other guess what we're working to get their audio up we have Elaine Marcus. Who's the American association for cancer research cancer progress report steering committee member and Bob Margolis who's -- three time cancer survivor. We've been getting quite a number of questions that have been coming through on on our our -- Twitter feed. And so -- start with with with some of those while people are standing in an additional questions. This question comes from -- am and she's interested in knowing about it enhances. In lung cancer in particular can that can you speak to that in let's start with with -- with noted focus on that we'll -- to you know. -- -- -- -- it and -- cancer. People of the -- it. -- -- actually. And units. Trial show. Mutations. Chris. -- -- -- -- -- bad enough. If that's what do you -- a little trouble with the audio there what are you seeing as as advances in in the area of lung cancer either diagnosis or treatment. Yet many that have been made over the last few years. Certainly we have better screening. Tools. Tool flying that -- Kansas heard it they are -- -- -- we have three of four star messaging. Will be able to reduce smoking so that would can decrease the risk of developing lung cancer. That's important is that fact that we have. New identity occasional platinum -- reducing the cancer -- -- the tumors that have allowed us to develop new treatments for patients. Boy diagnosed -- disease. Sent -- thanks very much. Bob I I'd -- to go to you. As this report is coming out now. Can give me some perspective on on on how this looks to you as as someone who's been been treated. Who survived 33 cancers. It's great to see your report like this its ruling important because of numbering -- to show that. Early detection in the proper treatment. In this is no longer a death sentence and I survived it three times. There wasn't an easy trip each time down -- com is -- survivable. And reduce the accident happened over time makes it possible for me actually teaching me and talking to. After three -- You Otis I have a question that that like to -- to you in in in looking at the the progress report. And the number of cancer survivors. And how much of the increasing cancer survivorship. Is due to improvements in treatment. And how much is due to detection of of more cancers. Some of which. May have to have been benign cancer so groups have put that in perspective the rise from three million survivors in 1971. To fourteen and a half million survivors today. Guys bring up important. Question. -- -- This is those things that it cures cancer. -- -- -- -- yes. One news. People have. One of the most. -- Paths some say this. If you want to add add something that in terms of the how much is improvement in in cancer treatment. And how much is diagnosing cancers -- that would not cause a problem. Bailey -- basic combination of both in addition actually to education. So that patients understanding. Of what -- options have been proper screening. The decreased risk and also the received therapy still I think education a -- -- -- of physicians. Us what is continuing research. Because -- we've made many -- -- there's dilute somewhat to be done. There Elaine martyrs is able to to join us now want to see if you you wanted to weigh weigh in on that what do you see as as some of the highlights in terms of cancer survivorship what. What is what is leading to two this is this rise in the number of people who are surviving cancer. Well certainly we can appreciate the contribution of early -- action and I think that we are better understanding. -- had genomic perspective looking at that genes that -- involved -- cancer. Moving forward we will better understand that genes that are hallmarks of patients who will progress with it invasive disease it detected early. Vs those who will not so this is one aspect of that -- -- -- make. Impact on understanding cancer. Which we appreciated for quite some time that I think is now coming to the forefront. Not only and that determination -- progress vs who will not. But is this the case for many of the cancer survivors featured in this record. The genomic diagnosis is better indicating which -- -- these will have an effect on their tumor. And this is a more personalized approach to it to cancer chair in cancer therapy and we've seen in the past but certainly is on the increase as well. Edith a question for you 11 concern that has been raised -- is the area of a pediatric cancers cancers in -- in children and over the past twenty years there have been two new drugs developed for treating. Pediatric cancer and one of the concerns. I have as a pediatrician. And as a parent is is the he is the lack of development of -- of drugs for those cancers. Possibly because there -- they don't affect as many people. The market isn't there there's as much money going into research how we make more progress in treating. Cancers in -- in our youngest our youngest people. Added there had to its way Sandra want to continue legally this scene understanding the biology embittered treatment so adult cancers. Number till continuing in an hour -- So the children award diagnosed with cancer -- participating noble clinical trials still again understand biology and organized a therapy. 130 she's going to be with advocacy I think we need to continue to raise our voices so that research funding is provided -- -- targeting childhood cancers but. But acting there's hope here. Elaine and what do you see as some of the biggest unmet needs in the area of of cancer researcher so much hope. That comes through the in the report. But where do you see the biggest gaps and where should the investments be going now. Well I think many in this big gaps really and revolved around these early cancer. Diagnoses. And the ability to detect the disease early on and there are certainly. Exemplary tumor types such as pancreatic cancer ovarian cancer. And -- -- last stand -- for example that are typically detected quite late in the disease. And for which there's really you know and associated very -- outcome. So in my mind. Many of the things that are going on now -- early stages of development are really. Tending towards this ability towards early prediction in early detection. And the earlier we can catch catch cancer the better we can -- -- with great success and survivorship associated. It's blown away and what do you see is that these gaps the biggest unmet needs. Is that created the biggest cuts -- to -- to be a full understanding hopefully know what causes cancers someone makes cancers grow. -- other issue he still to better understand -- -- micro environment -- Bay Area are surrounding the cancer has an impact on tomorrow growth. And that actually includes you know how -- -- -- harness that Pollard the -- system. And a lot of research funds should be going in are going that direction. Advocated to ask you question Bobbie as as someone who has has gone through cancer treatment. What do you see as the biggest needs 44. Helping people who are going through through trees. What could be done better. Well there's certainly. A family support -- support mechanism. Is critical to cancer have it. -- survival. And I was very fortunate to have a great it's a family surrounding. Altered times and known. It was really really invaluable. On -- then to be there for me. There were some tough days and -- tough day is not just for me that there were tough -- for everybody in the camera. And I think can't -- Cancer patients need to understand. That it's not just -- and that's going through the pain in her it's their entire Cameron. And -- -- needs that same kind of support system. -- -- cancer patient has -- think that's critical. And is often times forgotten. And I think. -- more understanding. Attitude chairman of -- or a group effort -- to survive cancer. -- wrong with a positive outlook I really think. I had great doctors and certainly had great treatments. Your outlook is critical to cancer survival it's all part of a combination of on beating cancer and survived. Thanks thanks very much we have some more questions that have been coming in through through Twitter. JS wants to know what the new advancements in in breast cancer. Edith would you like to two start and -- -- -- -- AM and then there -- new techniques you know to help that left in mammography. Tool bettered that detects. Early breast cancer said at a become available just this year. The second issue he said -- would continued to really better understand these DC's tonight's game this is going to totally -- late. -- junior therapies but even this year the -- approval by the FDA. But no -- to manage patients with breast cancer. So it's a culmination of many -- better diagnosis. Better understanding of biology and knew that his fourth therapy. In addition to the fact that that said it would go to Iraq -- education here in the US as well as globally so that people can dad take advantage of the knowledge that has been gained. Another question that's that's come through here and on Twitter and it has to do with the -- the whole area of molecular therapy. What do we mean when we talk about cancer genomics. And and molecular therapy can can you you take a stab. Elaine and explaining that and in in plain language would why does it matter that we understand. The that how -- cancer kicks in and and what is molecular therapy. Right so for very long time now we understood that there are fundamental changes in the DNA. In cancer cells as compared to the normal cells -- individual. And early on we understood that just by looking at -- chromosomes the way they look under the microscope. Nowadays we -- sequencing technologies. That can. To -- her cancer genome essentially overnight. So one can really get a highly accurate do you each individual's cancer genome. And in particular for the molecular early targets -- east. Or looking for there are specific genes that have specific mutations. Where we understand those mutations cause their routines. That are being released from the -- to be over activated. Hyper activated and that's really what we -- driving cancer development -- The molecular -- targeted their -- are specific molecules. That are. Highly targeted towards just those altered proteins those -- or overly active proteins. And so it's a much more exact combination combining their patients' individual. Genes and those mutations. With specifics there he's that you use a much more. High probability. That that issue will have. Successful interaction with that drug in terms of targeting and killing their cancer cells. And so this is really get a new era that we're finding ourselves -- where there are increasing numbers of targeted there east. Increasing understanding. Of the different nations that occur -- cancer cells. And it better system for educating our colleges about -- combination. Of genetics. And therapy that can. -- better outcomes for patients. Moving forward into the future. Thanks very much. -- and I'm I'm not ignoring you -- your audio is not working properly throws them and a half two. Hold -- went -- -- on this question your way. -- this question has to do with I think a fascinating area we do we we all know about. Vaccines for treating infectious diseases. But this question is what about the idea of -- cancer vaccine is is this science fiction or something that they could. Could be a reality. But they would need to be a reality number of right now -- and there's particular -- -- actually. Against -- unpopular by terrorists we choose very important vaccine -- used to decreased the risk of developing cancer of the cervix. A sort of some sub types of cancer of the head and neck because these two wants higher. Associated -- in terms of the development reduce viral infection. So that's a little bit different than a -- vaccines against a two -- -- percent. Research continues to be done. When there are other ways to regulating the assistant them may be even more efficacious them vaccines. A suburban -- are already available for to -- -- patients but let me say it should continue. Thanks very much. Bob here's a question for you what advice do you have for someone who has been newly diagnosed. With cancer what's with cheer your number wondered -- tips for for somebody who's who's just starting down that road. Well first and foremost and I -- this nation I'm crazy don't yet. -- -- -- -- Tremendous places to get cancer treatment -- -- and I would say do some research. First of all spend a little time when your own -- doctor. And -- -- on course of action who -- chairman doctor or -- the Doctor Who diagnosed with cancer and and clearing out proper methadone treatment that's gonna be right for you. And right through your camera -- it it's. The best way I can describe it loses. It may be along roads I'm in the road may be difficult -- teenagers summoning advances in cancer. You can reach that goal line. No one's going to be able telling how many enclaves it's gonna say he used a football analogy how we plays takes to get the legal line but believe me you can make -- -- the goal line -- there's tremendous help out there I was fortunate enough to be -- -- the University of Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia. And on the doctors there and treason senator. Abramson cancer center and there were remarkable and I went to stem -- -- transpired. -- essential treatment programs while I'm. So really the only thing I can say to people -- being positive. On cleaning the course of action. -- Take your family with you everywhere. And -- with the people on that you love the most and and honestly when -- When you hear answers to questions. That you're not comfortable with. Go somewhere else and Nationalists in question. I always believed that when the doctor says while I'm not sure I heard the word now it was time ago another doctor. I was very fortunate was blunt in my can't do that. You -- find that doctors on the net -- -- yes. And how do you keep -- so positive through through this process. You know it's really difficult and and and believe me when I tell you. Cancer survival is non -- percent up here the doctor's -- The kids to drugs are amazing it is that the radiation therapy is related -- Difficult to you know through. Where you have to keep that idea that you will win and then you're going to -- you -- that you're going to make it to the goal line that you gonna make it today and in the 500 mile race. If you keep that positive outlook. You can beat cancer it's in -- didn't you wrote it's difficult at times but you know once you get that ball rolling down -- In positive. You know what you -- the difficult treatments even after the radiation treatments you come home and your citizens. Just keep in mind your government can do it I always believed that when you're going through -- the best advice he used to keep law. Thanks and thanks very much Bob -- very very useful advice. Elaine and a couple questions about about new therapies and new approaches. How does someone find out about clinical trials and -- in new therapies. Well I think the best way is to just pay attention to sources ACR for example has -- patient portal and a monthly magazine -- -- information about these all the time. -- to the Internet -- you know can give you a lot of information about drugs that are in clinical trials and for your specific cancer diagnosis. And I'm just says I was reflecting I think continuing to ask questions is a great way of getting information. -- really pressing your health care providers to find that information -- help you find out information. Is is obviously a great tactic. To keep yourself -- well informed us as possible and keep exploring the possibilities that may be available to you. Great advice it if a couple questions having to do it. With with screening the the first one is why is there are no good prostate screening test for so long it was recommended that all men get. A prostate specific antigen PSA test at age fifty and now. A lot of the recommendations are that did that not be used at all why is there -- not a better screening test for prostate cancer. I -- that biology of cancer is it's complicated. -- we -- it -- we have to think somebody -- into consideration including you know how many legs are going to be saved. Every Dem would do a screening says is -- -- potential harm to the patient. If we find a little bit but I'm reminded the and then with -- that would many cancer biopsies. But had to feel -- been the result would Ohio one -- not because of lack of trying. It's so what -- say it's a controversial issues for some patient populations. But I think there's an agreement that is -- competition -- it makes sense -- some subgroups but not for every man. -- I think we've got your audio back to -- weigh in on the island. Yeah the problem or prostate cancer so many of the prostate cancers we find our -- over diagnosis tumors that don't need to be treated perhaps 1665%. And many of the cancers that we find we actually think diagnose them early but we had been diagnosed him to -- You know the argument for prostate cancer screening actually is a year -- study that suggests that three -- 4% of the men who we treat. Actually down -- -- for treatment. The argument against prostate cancer screening is an American studies shows it's not even as high as three or 4%. But benefit from treatment that's three -- 4% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. It's going to take a long time to figure that -- Again we need these Janelle would tell us the figure out the guys have a cancer that is going to kill -- need treatment persons that guy who has looking into the actually needs to be watched. Another good call -- for why we need more research in the in the area of cancer -- -- this this last question. From from Twitter again. A woman says I'm confused about breast cancer screening recommendations can you set the record straight. Good luck. -- even if they want to help you with listens well. The American Cancer Society recommend screening every year starting at the age of forty until -- woman. Has that in your life expectancy which is generally going to be in the early to mid seventies. Other organizations. Say. There's a lot of screen has the go on among women in their forties a lot of inconvenience. A lot of people being called back for abnormalities. In order to save one -- Therefore it's just not worth. The other thing of course that I would like to stress to people don't really appreciate. Is we think screening decreases risk of death by twenty to 25%. That -- the -- five to 80% of the women who were going to die from breast cancer. We'll still die from breast cancer if they get -- I say that because I get calls all the time from women that I did everything he said it should do. But now I have metastatic -- We need for search to find something better than mark he did however searchers -- I recommend women. -- Well I I wanna thank are four. Are four panelists verve -- -- joining us today and those of -- -- Twitter who've been on the that ABC Twitter chatter at. The hash tag ABC doctor -- yet. We've had as a very robust discussion when -- more articles available on the topic of cancer in cancer research progress. At abcnews.com. And I urge you to take a look at those. And thank you very much and join us back next week for another Twitter check.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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