For the second consecutive year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has named cancer immunotherapy as their clinical cancer Advance of the Year.
Released today ahead of World Cancer Day, their report – Clinical Cancer Advances 2017: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer – emphasizes the growing number of cancer patients benefiting from immunotherapy and highlights how evolving research is aiding the optimization of these treatments.
“In less than a decade, immunotherapy has gone from being considered a promising theoretical treatment to one that has become a standard of care that is helping extend or improve the lives of thousands of patients,” commented ASCO President Daniel F Hayes. “Today, increasing knowledge about both cancer and immunology is leading to more and smarter use of treatments that activate a patient’s own immune system.”
The report also highlights how federal funding for cancer research is a key driver in the progress being made against the disease and calls for sustained annual increases in such funding so progress can continue. As Hayes suggested: “Federal funding has made these life-saving advances possible and remains essential to increasing the pace of discovery and progress.”
As the report explains, the most significant progress in this field has been made with immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies. Currently, the US FDA has approved these agents for 15 distinct uses in cancer care, with five of these occurring over the last year.
These new FDA approvals have expanded treatment options for individuals with lung, kidney, bladder, and head and neck cancers, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma. As the report highlights, the recent approval of atezolizumab, marked the first new bladder cancer treatment in over 30 years.
Specifically, the report names ‘Immunotherapy 2.0’ as the Advance of the Year – a term that while referring to the therapy area as a whole, also refers to the next stage of work being carried out in the field. This includes working on refining therapy with these agents, i.e., identifying patients in whom these treatments work best, discovering methods for overcoming resistance and developing better means of reducing toxicities.
The report also named precision medicine, liquid biopsy and new tools that help bridge gaps between patients and physicians as important clinical cancer advances of the last year.
Executive Editor of the report, Harold J Burstein, concluded: “To conquer cancer, we must conduct research across the cancer care continuum, from screening to new treatments and strategies that help ease treatment side effects. With World Cancer Day around the corner, I’m excited by the advances we’ve made in just this past year as they will help many patients around the world live longer, healthier lives.”