The American Cancer Society published the results of a Japanese study in its on-line Journal on March 28, 2016. Healthfinder.gov, the publishing arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, summarized the results of the study in an article titled “Cancer Patients that Chose to Die at Home Live Longer: Study” Jun Hamano, MD was the lead author of the study. Hamano is from the University of Tsukuba, Japan. The summary of study results are provided by Hamano.
Among patients who had a survival prognosis of a few days, the estimated median survival for those who died at home was 13 days (95% CI, 10.3-15.7 days) while for those who died in the hospital, it was 9 days (95% CI, 8.0-10.0 days; P = .006). In the group with a prognosis in weeks, those who died at home had a median survival of 36 days (95% CI, 29.9-42.1 days), much longer than 29 days for those who died in the hospital (95% CI, 26.5-31.5 days; P = .007). However, the difference plateaued out in the group that had an estimated survival in months. – See more at: http://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/hospital-stay-did-not-improve-survival-among-terminal-cancer-patients-in-japan#sthash.vOFTPhLo.dpuf
There is a tendency to claim significant improvements for cancer patients when any extension to a patient’s life is achieved. Removing the statistics from the summary, we have the following:
- Patients that were predicted to live a few days, patients treated at home lived for 13 days versus 9 days for those in a hospital.
- Patients that were predicted to live a few weeks, patients treated at home lived for 36 days versus 29 days for those treated in a hospital.
- Patients that were predicted to live a few weeks lived about the same amount of time whether they were treated at home or in the hospital.
There is a new, very expensive cancer drug called Lonsurf for stage IV colon cancer patients that is advertised to extend the average life by 1.8 months. Lonsurf is a combination of a drug that was removed from the market because of its major side effects, and another drug that was added to increase the life of these advanced colon cancer patients. Research has shown that this combination of drugs helps extend patients’ lives by an average of 1.8 months, which is 55 days.
The Lonsurf drug combination costs about $4,500 per month for one dosage level and $6,000 per month for a higher dosage level. Given the very short term survival rate of stage IV colon cancer patients, the expected cost is less than $100,000 before the patient dies. The following information comes from a website called Healthcare.info.
Lonsurf Cost/Price for Cancer Treatment and Dosage
This drug is specialty medication so it is categorized as expensive item.
- A typical fill can cost $4,498 or more for 30 tablets of Lonsurf 15mg/6.14mg
- while a typical fill can cost $5,995 or more for 30 tablets of Lonsurf 20mg/8.19mg
Lonsurf Side Effects in Colorectal Cancer Treatment
According to clinical trials most common Lonsurf side effects are given as follows:
- Anemia, all grades (77%)
- Neutropenia, all grades (67%)
- Asthenia/fatigue, all grades (52%)
- Nausea, all grades (48%)
- Thrombocytopenia, all grades (42%)
- Decreased appetite, all grades (39%)
- Diarrhea, all grades (32%)
- Vomiting, all grades (28%)
- Neutropenia, grades 3-4 (11-27%)
- Abdominal pain, all grades (21%)
- Pyrexia, all grades (19%)
- Anemia, grade 3 (18%)
The question for patients whose initial diagnosis is that they have stage IV cancer may be whether to have any treatment at all beyond palliative care for pain. The slogan “One Goal – Cure Cancer” is helpful for raising money, and there has been progress in treating cancers using genetic analysis and advanced DNA and cellular level treatments.
The better slogan would be “One Goal – Prevent Cancer”. Cancer prevention requires cleaning up our air, water and food, following healthy diets and exercise programs, and regular testing to determine where we stand with regard to abnormal cells in our bodies. There are genetic cancers, but the vast majority of cancers are due to the failures to take care of our bodies. The body’s healthy immune system is the most effective tool to rid the body of defective cells that can become cancerous.
As long as people are willing to pay huge amounts for radiation, surgery and drugs that have limited success in restoring our health, and despite major quality of life issues, the focus will remain on very short term life extensions at all costs. This is not the path that needs to be taken if the overall health of the population is to be improved. The focus needs to be One Goal – Prevent Cancer.