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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 18, 2015

Quantifying Gains in the War on Cancer Due to Improved Treatment and Earlier Detection

Seth A. Seabury, Dana P. Goldman, Charu N. Gupta, Zeba M. Khan, Amitabh Chandra, Tomas J. Philipson and Darius N. Lakdawalla


Introduction: There have been significant improvements in both treatment and screening efforts for many types of cancer over the past decade. However, the effect of these advancements on the survival of cancer patients is unknown, and many question the value of both new treatments and screening efforts.

Methods: This study uses a retrospective analysis of SEER Registry data to quantify reductions in mortality rates for cancer patients diagnosed between 1997 and 2007. Using variation in trends in mortality rates by stage of diagnosis across cancer types, we use logistic regression to decompose separate survival gains into those attributable to advances in treatment versus advances in detection. We estimate the gains in survival due to gains in both treatment and detection overall and separately for 15 of the most common cancer types.

Results: We estimate that 3-year cancer-related mortality of cancer patients fell 16.7% from 1997 to 2007. Overall, advances in treatment reduced mortality rates by approximately 12.2% while advances in early detection reduced mortality rates by 4.5%. The relative importance of treatment and detection varied across cancer types. Improvements in detection were most important for thyroid, prostate and kidney cancer. Improvements in treatment were most important for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, lung cancer and myeloma.

Conclusion: Both improved treatment options and better early detection have led to significant survival gains for cancer patients diagnosed from 1997 to 2007, generating considerable social value over this time period.

Corresponding author: Seth A. Seabury, University of Southern California – Department of Emergency Medicine and Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, 635 Downey Way Verna & Peter Dauterive Hall (VPD), 2nd Floor Los Angeles CA 90089-3333, USA, Phone: +(310) 623-2025, e-mail:

  1. Conflict of interest: Support was provided by Celgene Corporation under contract with Precision Health Economics, a health care consultancy. Authors hold the following positions at Precision Health Economics: partner (DPG, TJP, DNL); consultant (SAS); and chief scientific officer (AC). CNG was previously an employee of Precision Health Economics.

  2. Research funding: Support was provided by Celgene Corporation.

  3. Author statement: SAS had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Support was provided by Celgene Corporation under contract with Precision Health Economics, a health care consultancy. Authors hold the following positions at Precision Health Economics: partner (DPG, TJP, DNL); consultant (SAS); and chief scientific officer (AC). CNG was previously an employee of Precision Health Economics. Precision Health Economics maintained all rights to publication subject to a time-limited period for review and comment by Celgene. In addition, ZMK of Celgene Corporation was fully involved with all aspects of this research, including the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


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Supplemental Material

The online version of this article (DOI: 10.1515/fhep-2015-0028) offers supplementary material, available to authorized users.

Published Online: 2015-11-18
Published in Print: 2016-6-1

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