The number of cancer patients benefiting from immunotherapies and being treated successfully is increasing markedly, according to the Sixth Annual Cancer Progress Report recently released by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
The annual report (hashtag #CancerProgress16) is a cornerstone of the AACR’s efforts to advocate for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while also increasing public awareness of cancer and the importance of cancer research.
Among other things, the report highlighted the following achievements:
- The number of cancer survivors in the U.S. went from one million in 2014 to 15.5 million in 2016.
- Between August 2015 and July 31 this year, the FDA approved 13 new anti-cancer therapeutics, and new applications for 11 previously approved anti-cancer therapeutics.
- Of the 13 newly approved anti-cancer therapeutics, four are immunotherapeutics.
- Research discoveries continue to advance precision medicine, demonstrated by the fact that four of the 13 new anti-cancer therapeutics are also molecular-targeted agents.
- Also between August 2015 and July 31 this year, the FDA approved one new cancer screening test, two new diagnostic imaging agents, and a new medical device.
Research that is supported by public funding from government agencies continues to lead progress against cancer, the report noted. It also highlighted some of the latest achievements in immuno-oncology, reflecting the general optimistic tone regarding this approach to cancer treatment and underscoring its increased utilization.
For instance, on Aug. 1, 2015, checkpoint inhibitors (one specific class of immunotherapies) were initially approved for just two types of cancer – melanoma and lung cancer. By September 2016, approval of the use of these inhibitors had expanded to also include bladder cancer, head and neck cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and kidney cancer.
“The promise of immunotherapy for cancer therapy has never been greater, and the opportunity to make significant progress in this critical area is real,” Nancy E. Davidson, MD, president of the AACR and director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said in a press release. “However, continued progress is going to require a sustained federal commitment to the research agenda. And in fact, if the necessary funding is provided, we will accelerate the pace of progress and, in turn, markedly reduce morbidity and mortality from cancer.”
Despite the advances being made, the report also notes the disease’s continuing high personal and economic burden:
- The number of new cases of cancer in the U.S. is estimated to rise from 1.7 million in 2015 to 2.5 million in 2035.
- Many groups suffer disproportionately from cancer – notably certain racial and ethnic minority groups, people in low socio-economic area, residents of particular regions, and the elderly.
- Medical costs of cancer care nationwide in 2010 were nearly $125 billion; by 2020, they area expected to reach $156 billion.
“Research has made tremendous advances against cancer,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD, chief executive officer of the AACR. “However, we need to accelerate the pace of progress because it is unacceptable that one American will die of cancer every minute of every day this year. The AACR is heartened by the renewed, bipartisan commitment from Congress and the administration to prioritize cancer research and by the research direction provided by the proposals from the NCI Blue Ribbon Panelists. We are committed to working to ensure that the momentum gained from these actions is translated into lifesaving advances for cancer patients everywhere.”
AACR summarizes the key recommendations here made by the panel, part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.