Leadership Insights

Working to Transform Cancer Care in Our Communities

November 08, 2017 | by Tom Lynch, Chief Scientific Officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb

T

 he idea that cancer patients may one day experience a high quality of life to an advanced age is no longer a fantasy. Living with cancer is becoming a reality.

TOM LYNCH, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB

Tom Lynch, Chief Scientific Officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb

This monumental shift has been driven by a transformation in cancer research and of cancer care over the past decade. The emergence of immuno-oncology (I-O) and the first wave of I-O therapies have helped us create targeted effective treatments. In fact, the number of cancer survivors is estimated to grow from 15.5 million to 20.3 million by 2026, an increase of 31 percent in a decade, according to one estimate. Advances in I-O research are producing more treatments at faster rates than ever. In 2016, for example, the FDA added five new drugs and biologics to the more than 200 anticancer agents already approved. 

Bristol-Myers Squibb is proud to have been a first mover in the area of immunotherapy. Today, we have three approved I-O therapies and we are investigating 11 more clinical stage molecules with as many different mechanisms of action. While we are still working toward the day when every cancer patient will benefit from ground-breaking treatments, we continue to increase our understanding of our therapies and how they may benefit patients as monotherapy or in combination with other treatments. 

As ever, exciting medical and scientific breakthroughs also come with significant challenges, for regulators who must evaluate new kinds of evidence and for clinicians trying to keep up with continuously changing treatment paradigms.

At Bristol-Myers Squibb, we are deeply committed to ensuring that the gains we are making in fighting cancer are as widely and equitably distributed as possible. While the achievements of the great cancer specialty centers are helping to lead the way, more than 80 percent of cancer patients are treated in community settings, where clinicians—by necessity—are generalists.

This means much work remains to be done to accelerate the extension of new standards of care from the specialty centers to community hospitals and practices. We must support patients and local health care providers in identifying the best available options so they and their caregivers can advocate successfully for the right treatment. We have to work closely together with the government, physicians and insurance companies to ensure that patients have access to affordable care in their communities.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, however. As we work side-by-side with hospitals and doctors around the country, we are finding that improving cancer care requires many different approaches. In some cases, it’s a matter of too few oncologists to meet the needs of the population. In these parts of the country, we must encourage the use of digital technologies to bring the best medical counsel and most advanced data insights to local doctors. In other places, where the problem is late diagnosis caused by lack of screenings and prevention care, solutions must include better education and access to regular wellness visits.

The benefits of this revolution in cancer care must not be limited by geographic or economic boundaries. We must work together to ensure that this transformation in the science of cancer is accompanied by an equally important transformation in the way it benefits patients and their communities.