There's one statistic I want you to pay attention to today: One in five.
I'm not talking about unemployment or stock prices or any economic indicators. This is far more important. It is a matter of life and death.
One in five people will die from cancer. That's based on recent death rates in the U.S., where cancer is the number two leading cause of death, just after heart disease. So for every five people who die this year, one of those was from cancer.
That means it could be you, your wife, your parents, or your children...
Sadly, despite all the money and effort we've spent to battle cancer over the years, we've made little progress in overcoming cancer's lethal power. In fact, you might even see headlines that cancer death rates are down… but the truth is we're facing increased numbers of folks facing even deadlier cancers. That means the numbers will climb over the next few years.
More alarmingly... about 38% of folks will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.
But there is hope. A new type of cancer therapy is quickly gaining traction in the medical world and showing great promise. It treats even some of the deadliest cancers... extending survival from months to years.
If you or a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, there are a few things you must do immediately.
To start, you need to ask about the recommended treatment options.
Make sure your doctor explains and spells out (preferably in writing) what he recommends for treatment. The traditional treatments for cancer include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. More often than not, doctors combine these treatments in various ways based on your specific cancer. They're known as the "cancer triad " and have been used together for decades.
Surgery is fairly straightforward. It involves removing the tumor and as much affected tissue around it as possible.
Radiation uses high-energy radiation waves (like gamma or X-ray waves) to focus in on the cancer and kill the DNA in the cancer cells. The problem of course is that radiation also causes cancer because it can mutate the DNA in healthy cells. Sometimes radiation might be used before surgery, for example, to shrink a tumor enough for it to be removed.
Chemotherapy involves strong medications given at regular intervals. These drugs kill fast-replicating cells, meaning they target and kill cancer cells. But other fast-growing cells are also killed, including the ones lining your stomach (leading to nausea) and your hair (leading to hair loss).
While we've seen advances in each of these three treatments as well as novel combinations of them to fight cancer, there's now a fourth option. It's currently being tested in dozens of clinical trials and some options are already on the market. This is the "Living Cure" I've written about many times.
The Living Cure is immunotherapy. It's a way to train your body's own immune system to fight cancer. That means the power to beat cancer is already inside of you. Doctors just need to figure out the best way to turn it on.
Immunotherapy started out when scientists found a man with a facial tumor who got a bacterial infection near the tumor. His body went into overdrive to fight the infection and also wound up attacking and killing the tumor.
That was enough to spur the birth of this new cancer treatment option.
In 2013, immunotherapy was named "Breakthrough of the Year" by Science magazine. That's on par with past breakthroughs such as sequencing the entire human genome and cloning a living mammal.
And in 2018, two of the pioneers of immunotherapy research won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work.
This is truly a game changer for how we treat – and cure – cancer.
At the time of this writing, about 10 immunotherapy drugs have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") approval, but more are in testing phases.
We've seen promising results for even the deadliest cancers. Melanoma and liver cancer in particular have seen fantastic trials with patients living much longer after diagnosis than ever before.
The best responses come from combination therapies. These combine immunotherapy with chemotherapy or radiation.
The idea is that chemotherapy may already stimulate the immune system, but it needs a boost from the immunotherapy to work better.
Some tumors are "cold," meaning they are shut off from the immune system's attacks.
New research looks at how immunotherapy drugs can turn on these cold tumors to make them vulnerable to chemotherapy drugs. That's why certain combinations could take down the tumors' defenses and then kill them.
There are now approved options for cancers of the bladder, breast, kidney, and even some blood cancers.
In 2018, the FDA also approved a few immunotherapy drugs for first-line treatment. That means patients don't have to endure rounds of radiation and chemotherapy first and only start immunotherapy as a "last chance" effort. They can get immunotherapy first.
One of those first-line options now focuses on advanced triple-negative breast cancer. This is one of the most difficult types of breast cancer to treat, so hitting it right away with immunotherapy shows a lot of promise.
Eventually, we hope to see immunotherapy options available for all cancers as first-line options or in combination with other treatments.
Imagine a day when you get a cancer diagnosis and it's immediately sequenced to determine the genetic makeup. Then you get a personalized treatment that's tailored exactly to your cancer. It could mean the difference between months or years of uncertainty versus total remission. That's the future we want to see.
My colleague Dave Lashmet just released a new report detailing the latest breakthroughs. I urge everyone to read this – you'll learn what to do if you or a loved one needs to make cancer treatment decisions. You'll also learn about the companies at the forefront of this research... and how you can add them to your portfolio.
What We're Reading...
- Cancer.net explains immunotherapy basics.
- Something different: Another complication from smartphones... Death on the battlefield.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
October 15, 2019