I am pleased to present Clinical Cancer Advances 2017, which highlights the most promising advances in patient-oriented cancer research over the past year. The report gives us an opportunity to reflect on what an exciting time it is for cancer research and how swiftly our understanding of cancer has improved.
One year ago, the White House announced the national Cancer Moonshot program to accelerate progress against cancer. This shared vision of progress has reinvigorated the research community, identified new areas of scientific collaboration, and raised our ambitions regarding what may be possible beyond the progress we have already made.
When I entered the field 35 years ago, I could not have imagined where we would be today. We can now detect cancer earlier, target treatments more effectively, and manage adverse effects more effectively to enable patients to live better, more fulfilling lives. Today, two of three people with cancer live at least 5 years after diagnosis, up from roughly one of two in the 1970s.
This progress has resulted from decades of incremental advances that have collectively expanded our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cancer. There is no better current example of this than ASCO’s 2017 Advance of the Year: Immunotherapy 2.0.
Over the last year, there has been a wave of new successes with immunotherapy. Research has proven this approach can be effective against a wide range of hard-to-treat advanced cancers previously considered intractable. Researchers are now working to identify biologic markers that can help increase the effectiveness of treatment and determine who is most likely to benefit from immunotherapy. This knowledge will enable oncologists to make evidence-based decisions so as many patients as possible might benefit from this new type of treatment.
Each successive advance builds on the previous hard work of generations of basic, translational, and clinical cancer researchers. Importantly, the advances described in this report would not have been possible without the individuals who volunteered to participate in clinical trials as part of their treatment.
To turn the promising vision of a cancer moonshot into meaningful advances, we need sustained, robust federal funding for continued research and innovation. Approximately 30% of the research highlighted in this report was funded, at least in part, through federal dollars appropriated to the National Institutes of Health or the National Cancer Institute. Without this federal investment—unique internationally in scale, duration, and impact for decades—I fear we may lose the forward momentum needed to further the progress we see highlighted in this report.
Federal lawmakers can further fuel progress by advancing initiatives that facilitate the use of big data to achieve the common good of high-quality care for all patients. Such programs, like ASCO’s CancerLinQ, will rapidly increase the pace of progress and dramatically expand the reach of treatment advances to the millions of patients who are living with cancer today or who will do so in the future. This investment will yield medical, scientific, economic, and societal benefits for years to come.
Much work still lies ahead. Many questions remain about how cancer develops and spreads and how best to treat it. As you read through Clinical Cancer Advances 2017, I hope you are as inspired as I am by the gains the clinical cancer research community has made over the past year and by the promise of a new era of advances just over the horizon.
Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FASCO, FACP
ASCO President, 2016 to 2017