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Moving forward, what do I see as the future of oncology?

Moving forward, what do I see as the future of oncology? What do I see oncology becoming? What technology will be used? what clinical trial will be the new standardised protocol? what new chemotherapy drugs or modalities will become the norm? These are the questions I found myself asking.

I recently came across an article by KPMG’s Global Strategy article titled “The Future of Oncology – A focused approach to winning in 2030.” The article highlighted a few facts that are worth knowing, facts such as globally, oncology has the highest cost compared to any other disease which means there is a higher demand for increased successful treatments.        

Insurance companies, self-paying patients and the NHS are moving towards value-based pricing for treatments, which means treatments will be priced on their benefits, their effectiveness. Advancement in technology is likely to increase in oncology more than other diseases. According to Cancer Research UK, there are 17 million new cases of cancer, 9.6 million deaths from cancer worldwide and 33% of cancer cases linked to exposure to tobacco smoke worldwide in 2018. The three main causes of cancer are: lifestyle choices (smoking, diet, alcohol), family history (genetics) and environmental (asbestos), tackling these causes will ultimately reduce the prevalence of cancer worldwide including in Low Resource Countries.

There are 1 billion adults that smoke cigarettes worldwide, infections in countries are becoming prevalent; therefore, becoming a contributing factor for cancer cases.

The UK is ranked high in both incidence and mortality (death) of cancer cases; it's estimated that there will be 27.5 million new cases of cancer each year by 2040. These are shocking figures; it is also saddening that these figures are not estimated to reduce in the future. These figures are peoples loved ones that will have to go through this dreaded disease, which could be avoided by taking necessary preventative action.

Therefore, what is the future of cancer care that I see or what do I want cancer care to look like in 2030?

I believe the government should invest heavily in preventative measures such as raising awareness, especially towards lifestyles choices. We cannot underestimate the power of education within the community; an investment in raising awareness will force people to be more conscious and aware of how they choose to live their lives.

More knowledge of screening procedures available and testimonials of cancer survivors should be shown, so the general public is aware of how much a cancer diagnosis changes an individual's life emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. Despite the abundance of information available about cancer, most people are still very much unaware. Still, they genuinely want to be informed; the increase in awareness will help tackle the "lifestyle" cause of cancer to a great extent.

The future of cancer care that I want to see includes MRI-linac, and proton beam therapy machines which should become the norm for radiotherapy cancer treatments; why? MRI-linac allows better tumour, soft tissue delineation and allows real-time tumour tracking; proton beam therapy helps us treat adults and young adult patients with less side effect and rare tumours without travelling outside the UK. Currently, we have very few MRI-linacs in the UK and across the world.

Similarly, there needs to be an increased awareness of proton beam therapy in the UK. Currently, three operational centres are using this form of treatment at Rutherford Cancer Centres and one NHS centre, The Christie in Manchester.  More investment needs to deployed into research and development in these innovative machines, whereby cancer care in the UK is continuously at the cutting edge and value-based for patients. 

I believe chemotherapy drugs will be improved to the extent that patients might not have to visit the hospital as often, and drugs will be developed to have less toxicity and harsh side effects. Immunotherapy will be the norm treatment rather than just for certain cancer treatments; I believe genomics and panomics could be the cure of cancer especially in patients with a family history of cancer, the gene-editing techniques will provide solutions to abnormal genes leading to cancer.

Lastly, more investment needs to push clinical trial, so there are more diverse interventions for an individual's disease, more personalised care for every cancer patient.

In conclusion, I believe if these changes are implemented the future of cancer care, fewer patients will need in-patient, intensive and end of life care, and will spend less time in hospitals. There will be higher survival rates; whereby health systems won't have to rush or keep repeating the same treatment that has been around for decades.

This is the future of cancer care I see.

Thanks for reading!

Mary Oladele

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the named author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rutherford Cancer Centres, Rutherford Health plc, its affiliates, or its employees.

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