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AACR Cancer Progress Report highlights how discovery science is driving clinical breakthroughs

Credit: CC0 Public Domain Today, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) released the 11th edition of its annual Cancer Progress Report, which underscores how cancer research, largely supported by federal investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), continues to drive progress for patients with cancer. The report…

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Today, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) released the 11th edition of its annual Cancer Progress Report, which underscores how cancer research, largely supported by federal investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), continues to drive progress for patients with cancer. The report chronicles advances in basic, translational, and clinical cancer research; features profiles of patients who have benefited from recently approved anticancer therapeutics; includes the latest information on cancer prevention, detection, and health disparities; and outlines policy recommendations to ensure that the U.S. maintains its momentum against cancer.

“The AACR Cancer Progress Report is unique in that it details the remarkable progress made in the past year and provides a clear-eyed assessment of where improvements are needed to help markedly reduce the burden,” said David A. Tuveson, MD, Ph.D., FAACR, President of the AACR. “As progress continues, I look forward to a world where people can live beyond their cancer. Indeed, our prospects for making substantial advances for cancer patients through research have never been greater than they are today.”

FIFTY YEARS OF PROGRESS

This year’s report highlights the enormous strides in and treatment since the National Cancer Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 23, 1971. This groundbreaking legislation laid the foundation for a robust and innovative cancer research community which has contributed to decades of progress for patients in the U.S. and around the world, notably:

  • In the U.S., the overall age-adjusted has decreased by 31 percent from 1991 to 2018, a reduction that translates into 3.2 million lives saved. This reduction includes a record 2.4 percent decline between 2017 and 2018, the largest reduction ever seen in a single year.
  • Successful efforts to reduce smoking rates among Americans have contributed to a 41 percent decline in lung cancer-related deaths from 1991 to 2018.
  • Fueled by discoveries made over the past 50 years, molecularly targeted therapeutics and immunotherapeutics have substantially increased the five-year survival rates for patients with formerly intractable cancers, like lung cancer and metastatic melanoma.

INNOVATING FOR PATIENTS

Building on the successes of the past 50 years, cancer researchers continue to make advances that improve, extend, and save lives. The following section highlights progress during the 12 months covered by the report (August 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021):

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved many anticancer therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and other technologies that benefit patients with cancer, including:

    • 16 new anticancer therapeutics;
    • 11 previously approved anticancer therapeutics, which are now approved for treating new types of cancer;
    • 3 new diagnostic imaging agents;
    • 2 new surgery guiding devices;
    • 2 new multi-panel next-generation sequencing liquid biopsy companion diagnostic tests; and
    • 1 new artificial intelligence-driven endoscopy device.
  • Recent breakthroughs in precision medicine include:

    • Sotorasib (Lumakras), the first FDA-approved therapeutic to successfully target the previously “undruggable” KRAS;
    • The first approval of an antibody-drug conjugate, fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan-nxki (Enhertu), for treating patients with HER2-positive gastric cancer; and
    • Relugolix (Orgovyx), the first oral hormone therapy approved for treating patients with advanced prostate cancer.
  • Research also continues to advance immunotherapy, leading to FDA approvals of:

    • Idecabtagene vicleucel (Abecma), the first approved CAR T-cell therapy for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma;
    • Dostarlimab-gxly (Jemperli), a new checkpoint inhibitor to treat patients with endometrial cancer who have certain biomarkers in their tumors; and
    • The checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo) in combination with ipilimumab (Yervoy) for treating patients with mesothelioma—the first new frontline treatment for this disease in 16 years.
  • The United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) updated its guidelines for lung and colorectal cancer screening, lowering the age of screening initiation for both cancers. These changes may lead to increased early detection, which could potentially improve treatment outcomes for these cancers.

ONGOING CHALLENGES REQUIRE CONTINUED INVESTMENT

Despite the immense strides that are being made across the continuum of cancer research and patient care, challenges remain in our goal of addressing this complex d

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