We’re going to need a lot more chemotherapy in the future

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  Last updated May 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

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More than 15 million people each year around the world will need chemotherapy by 2040, shows a landmark Australian study.


chemotherapy patient chemotherapy cancer


A new study predicts that between 2018 and 2040, the number of patients around the world needing chemotherapy each year will rise from 9.8 million to 15 million – a 53% increase.


And that means a huge increase in chemotherapy facilities and workforce is going to be needed in the near future.


The study by a team of researchers, including from UNSW Medicine, is published  in the journal The Lancet Oncology. It is the first study to estimate the scale of future chemotherapy facilities needed at national, regional, and global levels.


Rising cancer burden is a major health crisis


Brooke Wilson from UNSW, who led the study, says the rising global cancer burden is undoubtedly one of the major health crises of today.


“Strategies are urgently needed to equip the global health workforce to enable safe treatment of current and future patients.”


“Countries and institutions should use our data to estimate their future cancer physician workforce requirements and chemotherapy needs and plan national, regional, and global strategies to ensure all those who need it will have access to chemotherapy treatment.”


The study also looked at how many cancer physicians will be needed now and in 2040 as well as where patients needing the chemotherapy will reside.


“We needed 65,000 cancer physicians in 2018 to provide chemotherapy to all patients who would benefit from it – but that number will rise to an optimal 100,000 in 2040,” Wilson says.


“By 2040, two-thirds of patients requiring chemotherapy will live in low- or middle-income countries. Of the additional 5.2 million people needing treatment by 2040, an estimated 75% will live in these countries.”


Populations and cancer types are changing


According to Michael Barton from UNSW Medicine, who oversaw the study, evidence points to a future increase in cancer cases globally, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.


“As a crucial component of cancer care, chemotherapy is likely to benefit a large proportion of these cases,” he explains.


“Population growth and changes in distributions of cancer types by country were the leading factors driving the increased chemotherapy demand we saw in our study.”


Best-practice guidelines, patient characteristics and cancer stage data from the USA and Australia were used to calculate the proportion of newly diagnosed cases of cancer who would benefit from chemotherapy.


They applied these rates to international estimates of global incidences of adult and paediatric cancer from 2018 up to 2040 (GLOBOCAN) to provide estimates of global chemotherapy demand.


The findings are of particular concern for regions expected to have the greatest increases in new cases requiring chemotherapy – doubling or more in eastern Africa (184,289 cases to 395,519), middle Africa (50,932 to 108,896), western Africa (123,565 to 247,051), and western Asia (227,992 to 454,820).


In 2040, the most common cancers needing chemotherapy will be lung (2.5 million patients), breast (1.9 million) and colorectal cancer (1.7 million), and the greatest absolute increases in new cases will occur for these same three types of cancer.


Melina Arnold from the International Agency for Research on Cancer wasn’t directly involved in the study, but says the result will help to guide policy makers.


“All in all, this study will help to further guide policy makers and stakeholders in priority settings involved in setting up health infrastructure and strengthening and educating the future workforce. To leverage the full potential of this type of global prediction study, it would be useful to estimate costs of and strategies for scaling up health services for optimal patient management, not only for future chemotherapy, but also throughout the full continuum of cancer care.”


The full paper is available on the journal’s website.


Related


Scientists discover potential to prevent cancer in children with neuroblastoma


Breast screening vastly reduces risk of cancer death


Prostate cancer drug trials seek better treatments




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