Many of you may have seen the headlines this summer when the National Cancer Institute, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society issued their joint "Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer."
Overall, the news is encouraging: Americans' risk of dying from cancer continues to drop, maintaining a trend that began in the early 1990s. At the same time, the rate of new cancers remains stable.
In California, the news is encouraging as well. A 2006 "California Report Card" issued by the California Cancer Registry shows that cancer incidence rates statewide dropped 12 percent — and cancer mortality fell 19 percent — from 1988 to 2002. The four major racial/ethnic groups in California each experienced declines in their death rate from cancer during this period.
Other findings from the California report card: Breast cancer incidence in our state has not increased since 1988, while the death rate from the disease has decreased 29 percent. Although prostate cancer incidence climbed 70 percent from 1988 to 1992, it has since returned to 1990 levels — and mortality from the disease has dropped 30 percent since 1988.
It is gratifying to see that our nation's investment in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and research is paying off. However, the fact remains that nearly one out of every two Californians born today will develop cancer at some point in their lives, and one in five will die of the disease.
This fact drives us to pursue the research you read about in every issue of Synthesis. In this issue, we bring you reports of three tremendously exciting advances now in development at UC Davis Cancer Center. You will learn how we harness protons to treat ocular melanoma and about our efforts with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to make proton-beam radiation treatment systems compact and affordable enough to fit in any cancer center in the country and powerful enough to treat cancer anywhere in the body. We introduce you to the collaborative work of our neuro-oncology researchers, whose efforts are bringing us closer to new therapies for brain cancer patients. And we report on our joint research with Triton BioSystems, in which we are perfecting a method that uses nanotechnology to destroy tumors with heat.
We also introduce you to Robyn and Kyle Raphael, who have turned the tragedy of their son's death from cancer at age 5 into new hope for other children and families who face the disease.
Cancer remains a formidable adversary, but with continued research advances like those we report in this issue, continued support from friends like the Raphaels and continued investments in prevention, early detection and treatment, its defeat is only a matter of time.