Need To Balance Innovation, Benefits and Restraint When It Comes To The Rising The Costs Of Cancer Drugs

Cancer drugs—especially the new targeted and immunotherapies—are very, very expensive.

No doubt about that, and there is also no lack of effort trying to cast blame on who bears responsibility for those costs. There is even a recent article in the British Medical Journal that analyzes the size of the vials those drugs come in and suggests for some companies at least that may be a strategy to increase costs even further. What most experts can agree on is that this is a complicated problem for which there are no easy solutions.

I recently wrote a short commentary on the issue which appeared in Healio’s “HemOnc Today.” Although not exhaustive in terms of analyzing the issue, it does point out that we need to find a balance that continues to provide the incentive to innovate and bring new treatments to the care of cancer patients, while maintaining some degree of restraint given the reality that these costs simply cannot continue to increase without limit.

There is little question that these treatments have the potential for changing the outlook for some cancers. For example, we are seeing genuine improvement in survival—both in length of time and quality of life–for patients with advanced melanoma where until several years ago we had very little to offer. And immunotherapies offer hope for patients with a number of other cancers, including lung cancer and head and neck cancer.

However, if we don’t address the costs in a meaningful way we may find ourselves limiting the opportunities to continue the research and translation to clinical practice that will inevitably lead to the advances in cancer treatment that we all agree is vital to improving the outlook for cancer survivors worldwide.

Many can benefit from these new medicines. But rational thought must prevail if we are to provide continued development of promising new therapies, while preserving the access so vital to help those whose lives literally depend on these breakthrough treatments for a devastating disease.


J. Leonard Lichtenfeld's Biography

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP: Dr. Lichtenfeld currently serves as Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society in the Society's Office of the Chief Medical Officer located at the Society's Corporate Center in Atlanta. Dr. Lichtenfeld joined the Society in 2001 as a medical editor, and in 2002 assumed responsibility for managing the Society's then newly created Cancer Control Science Department which included the prevention and early detection of cancer, emerging cancer science and trends, health equity, quality of life for cancer patients, the science of cancer communications and the role of nutrition and physical activity in cancer prevention and cancer care.  In 2014, Dr. Lichtenfeld assumed his current role in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer where he provides extensive support to a number of Society colleagues and activities. As a result of his over four decades of experience in cancer care, Dr. Lichtenfeld is frequently quoted in the print and electronic media regarding the Society's positions on a number of important issues related to cancer. He has testified regularly in legislative and regulatory hearings, and participated on numerous panels regarding cancer care, research, advocacy and related topics. He has served on a number of advisory committees and boards for organizations that collaborate with the Society to reduce the burden of cancer nationally and worldwide. He is well known for his blog ( which first appeared in 2005 and which continues to address many topics related to cancer research and treatment. A board certified medical oncologist and internist who was a practicing physician for over 19 years, Dr. Lichtenfeld has long been engaged in health care policy on a local, state, and national level.  He is active in several state and national medical organizations and has a long-standing interest in professional legislative and regulatory issues related to health care including physician payment, medical care delivery systems, and health information technology. Dr. Lichtenfeld is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann Medical College (now Drexel University College of Medicine) in Philadelphia.  His postgraduate training was at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute in Baltimore. He is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the national honor medical society.  Dr. Lichtenfeld has received several awards in recognition of his efforts on behalf of his colleagues and his professional activities.  He has been designated a Master of the American College of Physicians in acknowledgement of his contributions to internal medicine.  Dr. Lichtenfeld is married, and resides in Atlanta and Thomasville, Georgia.

2 thoughts on “Need To Balance Innovation, Benefits and Restraint When It Comes To The Rising The Costs Of Cancer Drugs

  1. I just found out about 2 months ago, that I have tnc in my nodes, they are in a group. I had to quit working prior to this due complications from Ovarian cancer, which left me with fibromyalgia and my body in horrible condition. No Dr would diagnosis and claimed it to be arthritis and other minorold age problem. the pain from the fibro left me some day unable to walk. I finally threw in the towel. No one in the clinic in the town I live in or anywhere nearby were willing to help me. I finally found a new Dr that agreed that it is fibro that I am dealing with, but from there on was not willing to help me. Not even a handicap sticker for a bad day when I couldnt walk. The depression and the anxiety began melting away my hard working bubbly personality. A single Mom that raised 5 kids on my own. After a couple appts a Dr that I was told would most then probably help me, I made an appointment. After a couple more nudges they got me booked for the mammogram , I expected something “suspicious” to be found as I have fibro cystic breasts.I missed my follow up appt because of car problems, so when the clinic called and said they would squeeze me in today, but to get in there, I went. There were more suspicious places in my right breast, so a biopsy was performed and it turned out that there was what the found tnc. They said stage three but still workable. Ive been trying to get on SSDI for almost a year now. My hearing was supposed to be likely near Oct ` Nov. My question is are there any programs to help people like me. I as now home trying to heal, its harder with the financial stress, I also have my daughter and Grand daughter living with me. My daughter needs to finish school so she can decide on college. We do get 500.00 in food asst. And 200.00 from the county. The father of my daugthers baby drugged my daughter drugged her and raped her when she was only 15 years old. As from you can see from the dollar figures Im not making it and came very close to losing my home at one point. Its a habitat home so you only have 3 months of falling behind before they can evict you and take your home away. I have my home over half paid for. But after 2 battles with cancer and now more and I start chemo in two weeks in Montevideo clinic. The Dr placed a port a cath, and in July will be removing more nodes from under my arm pits and he said I will be likely to have my arm swollen for the rest of my life. Im right handed. I came across your website while looking for some kind of time line in which I can find out how much longer it will be swollen and hardened. Im miserable and in severe pain. Which also keeps me up at night even with sleeping pills.

    If you have any answers to my question, that would be great I included my email address. I just fee like Im losing the battle here and I have to keep a roof over my Grand daughters head. shes who keeps me going every single day. Shes only two years old as of now. My car broke down 3 times now and Ive put almost 1,000.00 in it I had to borrow, I owe out so much money I dont even know where the debt ends and begins. Thank you so very much for any suggestions. ( I did try angels of hope and they couldnt help me because my daughter is living with me ) Im sorry but she cant live on her own just yet. Shes still suffering from PTSD. And even under the circumstances she decided she wanted to keep her baby and raise her. From the worst of someones actions, we were given the most beautiful person in the world. .

    Going to try to sleep again. Thank you again if you can help me, if not thats fine, bless you and have a blessed weekend.

  2. Hi guys
    I hope everyone is doing well.
    Its danny
    I AM REACHING OUT FOR HELP FOR anyone suffering from CANCER!!
    this is mom just passed away from breast cancer.
    it was the worst most painful traumatic event in my life.
    I am so depressed. I wrote this song for mom when she was dying.
    I want to help anyone who is in pain.Any pain. My mom had terrible pain from cancer.
    She was always vomiting. In the hospital and nursing home she never once complained. I want people to be assertive and ask for help.
    We need to reach out to doctors, nurses clergy. They all helped me and my family and mom.
    . I want to help the family members , friends,doctors.
    please email to all your friends

    Song of Hope( for MOM)
    i am trying to start a comedy website and get on Howard Stern.
    I want people with cancer to have fun watching the videos I made for mom
    I wrote this song to people who suffer from the discrimination of having cancer and losing jobs. Some cancer patients don’t have family to visit them.this is for them. When people go to hospice sometimes the family is so afraid to see their mom and dad die.
    We must be strong. MOM heard us even after she went into the coma.
    You need to keep visiting until the last hour.
    Mom and dad will go to heaven. They will meet their parents.
    God will reach out his hand.
    On the other hand, before mom and dad go to heaven, we are humans.
    We were made by God. Mom told me how she was so afraid to die.
    We need to hold her hand. She felt so alone and suicidal.

Leave a Reply to M. Bradshaw Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *