Secondly, the use of tumor response is a practical and straightforward way for clinicians to educate and guide the patient throughout their treatment journey. The concept is readily available in a cancer patient’s vocabulary; there’s a palpable relief when they hear their cancer is responding to treatment. In contrast, terms like “progression-free survival” and “overall survival” are more abstract and while they are extremely important and improving overall survival is our ultimate objective as well as the gold standard for efficacy, patients can’t see or feel them.
Response also provides a psychological benefit to the practitioner. When I was a practicing pediatric oncologist, one of my greatest joys was informing parents when their child was responding to treatment and their tumors were shrinking. Nothing was more uplifting than seeing their reaction to the possibility that they were winning a fight against the cancer and that their son or daughter might be on the road to becoming free of cancer. I believe many oncologists share this sentiment about communicating positive treatment results to their patients.
In my view, the ability to convey treatment success based on tumor response is a win-win for both the patient who has cancer and the practitioner. Put the two terms together and you have “ResponseABILITY” – the obligation and the reward of helping patients with cancer gain in their fight so they can feel better, live their everyday lives and spend more time with their loved ones.
It’s an exciting time in cancer research. Cutting-edge discoveries are redefining traditional measures of prognosis and treatment response and broadening the use of cancer medicines for appropriate patients. New classes of drugs, led by targeted therapies that inhibit molecular pathways and immunotherapies that enlist the body’s defenses to fight cancer, are providing sustained and durable responses that allow patients to live longer and maintain a better quality of life, especially compared to anti-cancer treatments of the past. I believe the next 10 years will bring even more success, as new therapeutic options being tested as single agents or in combination with other treatments – especially targeted and immunotherapies taken together – may offer further clinical benefit to patients.