PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The power of personalized, precision medicine that comes from groundbreaking cancer research is happening here in Philadelphia and around the country.
One Pennsylvania patient is beating cancer after being part of an innovative clinical trail at Fox Chase.
“It just felt like my world stopped everything,” Bill McCone, who was diagnosed with neck cancer, said.
The 54-year-old McCone got the news of his cancer three years ago.
“It was rough,” he said, recalling how he lost 25 pounds.
His cancer was caused by caused by human papillomavirus, something he made sure his teenagers had been vaccinated against.
The sexually transmitted virus is often dormant for decades, which is why the vaccine only effective before people become sexually active.
When traditional treatments didn’t work for McCone, he tried at experimental immuno-therapy at Fox Chase.
“As of May, no evidence of the disease — it’s all gone,” he said. “Ever since, I’ve been feeling great. We’ve been traveling, doing more camping and enjoying life a little more.”
McCone is now part of a growing trend.
Five-year cancer survival rates are improving, from 49 percent in the mid-1970s to 69 percent in 2013, according to new research from the American Association for Cancer Research.
And cancer death rates are down 25 percent since 1991, due mainly to improved detection and better treatments.
The therapy that saved McCone is now FDA approved, among 17 new cancer drugs cleared.
In the past year, two are in the revolutionary class of immuno-therapies, called “checkpoint inhibitors.”
“I think funding this research is very important, cause even the drug I was on just didn’t fix my cancer, it’s fixing other types of cancer,” McCone said. “That’s only one drug.”
The AACR says continued progress to battle cancer depends on Congress approving increased funding to the NIH and the FDA. But it’s worried about discretionary budget caps that could threaten the development of new and improved treatments.