Cancer, 2031: Still a Challenge, but More Hope

Cancer will still remain a formidable health challenge for America and for the world 25 years from now.

However, major advances will help the medical community understand cancer better and make cancer more treatable.

Watch "Good Morning America's" "The Future Now" on Nov. 4.

The aging of the population and the obesity epidemic will result in an increasing number of cancer cases.

But, the death rates from cancer will decrease, as our prevention and screening methods become more effective, access to screening improves, fewer people smoke, and effective cancer treatment becomes more accessible and more uniform.

Our knowledge of cancer genetics will progress rapidly. As a result, we will continue, through ongoing and expanded research opportunities, to develop a more thorough and complete understanding of the processes and genetic changes that lead to the development of cancer.

We will have technology that will be able to detect cancers in our bodies before they are visible, either through genetic analysis or through the detection of proteins or other byproducts of cancer cells.

We will routinely be able to determine the genetic signatures of specific cancers, which will help to define and predict the future behavior of a particular cancer and whether or not it will require intensive treatment.

We will have more drugs to choose from which target the basic functions of the cancer cell. Through sophisticated genetic analysis, we will be able to choose which of these targeted therapies will work best in the treatment of a particular cancer.

Perhaps most significantly, we will achieve the goal of changing cancer from a lethal to a chronic disease.

Despite major medical advances, we will continue to struggle with the adequacy of research funding for promising programs and projects.

We will need to develop better systems of getting more patients into clinical trials to determine the benefits of new cancer treatments and how best to combine these promising therapies.

And, we will continue to struggle with the benefits new drugs offer and how we are going to afford them.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is the deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

As a result of these advances, our view of cancer will shift from a topic that generates fear in the minds of most people to a topic of rational discussion between patients, their families, and their health-care professionals who will increasingly view cancer as a controllable, though chronic, medical illness.

The end result will be an increase in hope, and a decrease in the suffering and burden related to cancer in this country.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is the deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.