Extraordinary progress has been made over the past 70 years to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer—progress that gives hope to many people facing a cancer diagnosis. The lynchpin of this progress has always been, and continues to be, clinical research—a process through which we learn from and build on the efforts of untold numbers of researchers, clinicians, and patients. ASCO’s Clinical Cancer Advances report, our 14th edition, examines the most transformative research of the past year and, for the first time, offers our vision for future research priorities.
ASCO’s 2019 Advance of the Year, Progress in Treating Rare Cancers, reflects the impressive gains we have made in understanding these so-called orphan diseases and in tailoring treatments to target their unique characteristics. This year, we are highlighting five remarkable achievements in rare cancers that hold real promise for patients.
Much of the progress we have made against cancer has been driven by federally funded research, and this past year is no different. For example, funding from the US government, including the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, supported three of the five advances in rare cancers and nearly a third of the studies highlighted in the report. With the number of new cancer cases in the United States set to increase by roughly a third over the next decade, it is crucial that our nation continues to invest in the next generation of cures for patients.
Although survival rates are increasing for many cancers, our work is far from over. ASCO’s Research Priorities to Accelerate Progress Against Cancer are intended to serve as a guidepost for steering future research in directions we believe have the greatest potential to accelerate the pace of progress. We identified a list of research priorities that help fill critical gaps in cancer prevention and care—from increasing diversity in clinical trials, to better predicting responses to immunotherapy, to reducing the impact of obesity on cancer incidence and outcomes.
Cancer treatment advances are only as good as patients’ ability to access them. But, for far too many patients, high-quality cancer care and clinical trials are out of reach. We have much work to do before everyone with cancer has equal access to the best treatments and the opportunity to participate in research. By working together as a community, I know we can find solutions that will help ensure that the advances that are discussed on the following pages reach every patient who could benefit from them.
Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO
ASCO President, 2018 to 2019