Clinical Cancer Advances 2020: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer highlights the most important clinical research advances of the past year and identifies priority areas where ASCO believes research efforts should be focused moving forward.
Advance of the Year: Refinement of Surgical Treatment of Cancer
Progress in the development of new systemic cancer therapies has not only improved patient survival and quality of life but is now transforming surgical approaches to cancer treatment. The emergence of novel systemic therapies—those that travel throughout the body and treat cancer cells wherever they are—combined in new and better ways, is significantly changing the role of cancer surgery.
ASCO’s selection of Refinement of Surgical Treatment of Cancer as the 2020 Advance of the Year recognizes recent strides seen in the effectiveness of these treatments in reducing the amount of surgery, and even the need for it, while increasing the number of patients who can undergo surgery when needed. In particular, considerable advances have been seen in neoadjuvant therapies—those given before surgery—as reflected in the highlighted studies below. Progress in systemic therapies for pancreatic and kidney cancers as well as melanoma have helped reshape the role of surgical treatment, making them some of this year’s most impressive research successes.
- Neoadjuvant combinations of immunotherapies pave the way for more successful, less invasive surgery for patients with advanced melanoma.
- Targeted therapy provides alternative to immediate surgery in treatment of renal cell carcinoma.
- Upfront treatments make surgery possible for more patients with pancreatic cancer.
This progress in surgical cancer care is possible, in part, thanks to federal funding. Nearly a quarter of the studies featured in the report this year were supported in part by the US National Institutes of Health. Given that the number of new US cancer cases is set to rise by roughly a third over the next decade, continued investment in research is crucial to continuing critical progress in the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
“As a cancer survivor and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health, I know first-hand that federally funded research can result in breakthroughs that save millions of lives.”
—Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Additional Major Advances
- Long-term data show that vaccines against human papillomavirus are reducing cervical cancer risk in real-world settings.
- Biomarker-driven treatment approach opens the door to personalized care for metastatic pancreatic cancer.
- Combinations of different types of therapies suggest that survival can be extended without increasing toxicity.
- Growing number of targeted therapies are offering hope for more patients with difficult-to-treat cancers.
ASCO Research Priorities to Accelerate Progress
ASCO’s Research Priorities are intended to identify areas on which future research efforts should be focused to help accelerate progress against cancer. The 2020 priorities, listed in no particular order, address unmet needs or help fill a knowledge gap in areas critical to improving patient care and outcomes:
- Identify Strategies That Predict Response and Resistance to Immunotherapies
- Limit Extent of Surgery by Optimizing Systemic Therapy
- Increase Precision Medicine Research and Treatment Approaches in Pediatric and Other Rare Cancers
- Optimize Care for Older Adults With Cancer
- Increase Equitable Access to Cancer Clinical Trials
- Reduce Adverse Consequences of Cancer Treatment
- Reduce Obesity’s Impact on Cancer Incidence and Outcomes
- Better Identify Premalignant Lesions and Predict When Treatment Is Needed
These priorities build on an understanding gleaned from years of research efforts and will evolve over time as cancer research and knowledge advance.
Cancer Research: Why Federal Support Matters
Research funded by the NIH and National Cancer Institute (NCI) plays a pivotal role in improving our understanding of how to prevent, diagnose, treat, and even cure cancer. In fact, nearly a quarter of the studies highlighted in this year’s Clinical Cancer Advances report were supported in part by NIH and NCI.
Over the past few years, Congress has demonstrated tremendous bipartisan leadership by passing annual consecutive increases for the NIH. In FY 2020, Congress provided a $2.6 billion funding increase for the NIH.8
"By continuing to invest in biomedical research, we can give our top-notch researchers across the nation and in West Virginia the support they need to continue their work, and provide a new sense of hope and optimism for the future."
—Senator Shelley Moore Capitol
As long as cancer continues to be the life-threatening burden it is today, our nation must continue to prioritize investment in cancer research. Recent budget increases represent a promising future of renewed focus on federally funded cancer research.
Contact your members of Congress to urge their continued support for NIH and NCI funding. The ACT Network makes it easy for you to reach them directly. Visit asco.org/actnetwork to take action.
About Clinical Cancer Advances
ASCO’s Clinical Cancer Advances report highlights current trends in the field and identifies cancer research priorities that have great potential to advance progress against cancer. The report, now in its 15th edition, is developed by a 20+ member editorial board of experts in a range of cancer types, subspecialties, and care issues. The editors reviewed scientific literature published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at major medical conferences, primarily from October 2018 to September 2019, and selected advances that improve meaningful patient outcomes and have a strong scientific impact. The editors also proposed priority areas of research that address vital unmet needs in cancer care and have the potential to improve the knowledge base for clinical decision-making.
About the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Association for Clinical Oncology
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (the Society) and the Association for Clinical Oncology (the Association) are committed to making a world of difference in cancer care. The Society and the Association represent nearly 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education, and promotion of the highest-quality and equitable patient care, the Society works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy. The Association works to ensure that all individuals with cancer have access to high-quality, affordable care; that the cancer care delivery system supports oncology providers in their delivery of optimal cancer care; and that our nation supports federal funding for cancer research as well as efforts centered on cancer prevention, drug development, and clinical trials.
About Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation
Conquer Cancer funds research into every facet of cancer to benefit every patient, everywhere. As ASCO’s foundation, Conquer Cancer helps turn science into a sigh of relief for patients around the world by supporting groundbreaking research and education across cancer’s full continuum. Nearly a third of the clinical trials included in this report were conducted by researchers who received funding from Conquer Cancer through Young Investigator Awards or Career Development Awards to grantees and have continued their careers in oncology research.