The first thing I thought of when I saw this story was the talk given by Gerd Gigerenzer last year at this odd but interesting workshop. The gist of it was that "survival time" as a measure of performance in medical science could be very misleading, as it does not necessarily indicate any increase in lifespan or reduction in death rate. Increasingly aggressive and sophisticated screening and diagnosis procedures will automatically result in increased "survival time" even without any improvement in treatment, simply through spotting the cancer earlier in its progress. This isn't a purely theoretical point, he had plenty of statistics to back it up too. That's not to say there haven't been genuine advances too, but 5y survival rate doesn't necessarily measure them correctly.