Accelerating Progress Against Cancer

For Immediate Release
June 3, 2011

Aaron Tallent

ASCO Kicks Off 2011 Annual Meeting

CHICAGO - To mark the 40th year since the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971, the opening press briefing of at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) highlighted the significant progress made in cancer treatment over the past four decades, the major challenges ahead, and new research models to find better treatments faster.

"Over the past four decades, the average five-year survival rate for all cancers has increased by 18 percent, so that today, two out of three cancer patients live at least five years after a cancer diagnosis," said George W. Sledge Jr., MD, ASCO president and the Ballve-Lantero Professor of Oncology and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "Since its peak in 1991, the overall cancer death rate has dropped by 17 percent. This progress has occurred not by chance, but through many decades of public and private funding of cancer research. Sustained investment in cancer research will continue to offer hope for patients worldwide."

To demonstrate the progress that has been made in cancer research, ASCO has launched a dynamic new website featuring an oncologist-curated, interactive timeline of major milestones in cancer research overall in several common cancer types over the past 40 years. The new site, CancerProgress.Net, is designed to be a "living" site where new advances and information will be added in real time. "We are making history, right here today," Dr. Sledge said. "The research that is being presented at this meeting is part of this progress, and some of it will no doubt be recorded in the CancerProgress.Net timeline as major milestones in our quest."

Today's briefing included two abstracts that epitomize the progress that is being made in cancer research. "These two studies show just how far we have come in treating cancer patients over the past 40 years," said briefing moderator Richard L. Schilsky, MD, past president of ASCO (2008-2009), Professor of Medicine and Chief, Section of Hematology-Oncology, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and Deputy Director, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Chicago. "We are continuing to find the best ways to use the therapies we have, based on greater knowledge of how they work, while forging ahead to test new treatments that match the specific molecular profiles of each patient."

Studies highlighted in the press briefing include:

• New Chemotherapy Regimen Boosts Event-Free Survival for Children and Young Adults With ALL: A randomized Phase III Children's Oncology Group study shows that a high-dose methotrexate regimen is superior to the standard regimen of escalating methotrexate for children and young adults with high risk B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This regimen improved five-year event-free survival and had no greater significant side effects compared to the standard regimen. The trial establishes a new standard treatment for these patients.

• Innovative Model That Matches Targeted Drugs to Tumor Aberrations in Patients with Advanced Cancer in Phase I Clinical Trials Proves Feasible and Often Improves Outcomes: A major personalized medicine initiative at The University of Texas' M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that matching advanced cancer patients in Phase I trials with targeted drugs on the basis of the molecular profiles of the patients' tumors resulted in longer survival and time to treatment failure and better response rates compared to treating patients without molecular matching.

For consumer-oriented information on these studies and more than 120 cancer types, please refer your readers to ASCO's patient website, www.Cancer.Net.


The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the world's leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. With more than 30,000 members, ASCO is committed to improving cancer care through scientific meetings, educational programs and peer-reviewed journals. Patient-oriented cancer information is available at www.Cancer.Net.