Cancer treatments may benefit from lessons of pandemic set-backs

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US, Mar 22, 2021. Reuters
Although cancer screening and diagnosis was hit by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting advances in medical technology and greater diversity in clinical trials could help treatments in the future, an AstraZeneca executive said.

Testing and diagnosis rates for cancer dropped by 15% to 25% over the past two years as people skipped routine checkups, Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president of oncology at AstraZeneca, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum in Davos.

"What that means is that we are diagnosing cancer patients late," Fredrickson said this week, with cancer outcomes being best when diagnosed early.

Efforts to minimise patients having to go to healthcare facilities, wider adoption of telemedicine, and bringing trials to patients rather than have patients come to trials are "particularly important," Fredrickson said.

"Clinical trial diversity is one of the most important steps to ... deliver cancer therapies in an equitable way across the globe," he said.

Fredrickson said he was more optimistic on the detection and treatment of lung and breast cancer, as new drugs and treatment plans have improved survival rates in certain settings.

Public-private partnerships will be important in improving cancer diagnosis and survival rates, he said, pointing to Egypt's strategy to tackle prevalent cancers and US President Joe Biden's revival of the "Cancer Moonshot" initiative.

The programme, an Obama administration initiative revived by Biden in February, aims to improve cancer detection and prevention, while encouraging cancer research.