Curing Cancer: Harder Than Rocket Science

In his most recent column on Forbes.com, John Lechleiter -- our chairman, president, and CEO -- talked about the National Cancer Act of 1971. At that time, President Richard Nixon declared a "war on cancer" and said the Act was "the most significant action taken by this administration." 

As John wrote, the idea of curing cancer within a few years -- with the backing of steep investments -- did not seem unreasonable at the time. After all, we had already put a man on the moon.

More than four decades later, we've seen progress -- but not nearly enough. And clearly, no cures.

In 1975, only 50 percent of adults and 52 percent of children lived five years beyond their cancer diagnosis. Today, 70 percent of adults and 80 percent of children live beyond five years. A woman diagnosed today with breast cancer has a 90 percent chance of living more than five years. Same goes for children diagnosed with common forms of leukemia.

Sadly, however, the 5-year survival rates for other cancers -- lung, brain, and pancreas, for example -- are in the low single digits. And this year alone, at least 570,000 Americans will die of cancer. So, while we've made nice strides since 1971, we have a very long way to go before success can be declared.

You can read more from John about advancing our progress against cancer on Forbes.com