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Annual AACR Progress Report Highlights Successes, Challenges Across US Cancer Care

Shannon Connelly
Published Online:1:58 PM, Mon September 17, 2018
While significant progress has been made in the fight against cancer, including a decline in cancer deaths, the number of people projected to be diagnosed with cancer is on the rise, and there is still more work to be done, according to the newly released American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Progress Report.

The annual report provides an overview of the current state of cancer research in the US, the progress that has been made possible by this research, and a look at future projections.

According to the 2018 report, the number of cancer deaths in the US declined by 26% between 1991 and 2015, which translates to almost 2.4 million lives saved. Other highlights of the report include the FDA approval of 22 cancer treatments between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018, and a 28% decline in cigarette smoking among adults in the US since 1965, down from 42% to 14%. Much of this progress has been made possible by research funded by federal investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Immunotherapy is one area of cancer where significant progress has been made, with the number of cancer types able to be treated with immunotherapeutic agents more than tripling over the past decade. CAR T-cells have recently taken forefront, with durable responses seen for patients with blood cancers.

Advancements in precision medicine have also been made possible by research over the past year, including the development of the first agent to target IDH2, the first FDA approved PARP inhibitor in breast cancer, and a new androgen receptor-targeted therapeutic in prostate cancer.

“The unprecedented progress we are making against cancer has been made possible largely through basic research,” Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, president of the AACR and deputy director of The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in a statement. “A continued increase in federal funding for both basic, translational, and clinical research will allow us to make major headway moving forward.”

Despite the decline in cancer deaths, the number of people in the US expected to be diagnosed with cancer is projected to increase from 1.7 million this year to nearly 2.4 million in 2035. According to AACR, this is largely due to the growing population of people 65 and older.

Additionally, while HPV vaccination could prevent close to all cervical cancer cases, as well as many oral and anal cancer cases, less than 50% of adolescents in the US between the ages of 13 to 17 are up to date with the recommended vaccines, according to the report.

In order to address these public health issues, the report calls on elected leaders to continue growth of the NIH budget with an increase of at least 2 billion in 2019, bringing total funding to 39.1 billion; ensure that funding totaling 711 million designated through the 21st Century Cures Act for targeted initiatives, including the National Cancer Moonshot, is fully appropriated in 2019; increase the base budget for the FDA to 3.1 billion in 2019, which would equate to a $308 million increase over 2018; provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cancer Prevention and Control Programs with at least $517 million in funding for comprehensive cancer control, cancer registries, and cancer screening and awareness programs.

"There has never been a time of greater excitement in the cancer field," said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR, in a statement. "The rapid pace and broad scope of the progress against cancer are extraordinary. We have the scientific knowledge, cutting-edge technologies, and capability to deliver a new wave of innovations that will stimulate more lifesaving progress. However, if we are to seize these opportunities to further transform cancer care, we must ensure that biomedical research remains a high priority for our nation's policymakers."

The full report can be found here.


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