» Download (DOC | 75 KB)

Experts Highlight the Promise of Medical Research to Ease the Growing Burden of Cancer and other Age-Related Chronic Diseases

Washington, D.C. – A panel of experts gathered today on Capitol Hill to address the growing burden of chronic disease in an aging nation and the promise of medical research and innovation. The briefing, the first of four briefings hosted by the Alliance for Aging Research, focused on cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, this year cancer will affect 1.4 million individuals and cause 564,380 deaths.

As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double to some 74 million by 2030. Age is a major risk factor for cancer – about 76 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in individuals age 55 and over. Some economists have estimated the worth of a modest 1 percent reduction in deaths from cancer at close to $500 billion; and a cure for cancer (if feasible) would be worth about $50 trillion.

Frank Lichtenberg, PhD, professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, highlighted his research findings which show, in general, that the use of new cancer drugs has increased cancer survival rates, and given the projected increase in the incidence of cancer, underscored the role of innovation in improving health.

Len Lichtenfeld, MD, FACP, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, described innovative cancer treatments and the need for continued investment in cancer research to maintain the pace of research and drug development.

Christopher Millard, a cancer survivor from Annapolis, Maryland, shared his story and talked about the importance of early detection and cancer research. Diagnosed with a highly malignant tumor in his 30s, Millard participated in a clinical trial and treatment that resulted in the remission of his cancer.

Already it is estimated that nearly half of all Americans have a least one chronic disease. The overwhelming reality of American health care now and for the future is driven by older patients afflicted with multiple chronic conditions at the same time such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, and general frailty.

In less than five years, the Baby Boom generation starts to become the largest Medicare generation in history. As a result, federal spending on those age 65+ is also expected to double with three-quarters of the increase in health care spending. The projected increase in health care spending is more than all of today’s discretionary spending on schools, the FBI, the environment and many other federal programs.

In an effort to better understand the human and economic burden of chronic disease, the Alliance for Aging Research introduced The Silver Book: Chronic Disease and Medical Innovation in an Aging Nation. The Silver Book is an almanac that draws upon scores of authoritative studies and analyses by the government, industry, private organizations and prominent economists. The Silver Book focuses on four major diseases: cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological disease. To learn more about the burden of chronic disease and the promise of innovation, access the Alliance’s new online almanac, www.silverbook.org.

The briefings are supported by a generous grant from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Founded in 1986, the Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the health and independence of aging Americans through public and private funding of medical research and geriatric education. The Alliance combines the interest of top scientists, public officials, business executives, and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today’s older generation.