American Association for Cancer Research ix
where possible, could therefore, have a remarkable impact
on our nation’s burden of cancer. However, a great deal more
research and resources are needed to understand how to best
help individuals to change their lifestyle.
Finding a cancer early makes it more likely that it can be
treated successfully. Thus, population-based screening
programs have been implemented to detect a variety of
cancers. Such programs have been credited with dramatically
increasing the five-year survival rates for the cancers they
detect; however, there is growing concern that this heightened
surveillance leads to the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of
some forms of cancer, and that it can do more harm than good.
One way to reduce overdiagnosis and overtreatment is to target
screening programs to those individuals at highest risk for
developing the cancers being detected. Therefore, continued
research is needed to develop more concrete ways to identify
the most at-risk patients, and more and better ways to
intervene earlier in the progression of cancer.
Making Research Count for Patients:
A Continual Pursuit
Decades of cancer research have deepened our understanding
of cancer biology. Exploiting this knowledge to make research
count for patients is a continual pursuit that fuels the
extraordinary medical and technical advances that are not
only helping save millions of lives in the United States and
worldwide, but are also improving the quality of lives.
From Sept. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013, the translation of
scientific discoveries into a new drug, device, or technique
approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was
completed for 11 new anticancer drugs, three new uses for
previously approved anticancer drugs, and three new imaging
technologies that are helping clinicians to better detect,
diagnose, and treat many forms of cancer.
There are also many cancer therapeutics showing great
potential in clinical trials. One group of cancer therapeutics
likely to revolutionize the treatment of certain cancers in the
very near future are immunotherapies. These therapeutics,
As a result of cancer genomics research, two of the new
anticancer drugs approved by the FDA in 2013 were approved
together with companion diagnostics to ensure that only
patients who are likely to benefit from the drug receive it. This
is an example of how large-scale genomic analysis of patients’
tumors is beginning to guide cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Further innovation is needed, however, if genetic/genomic
analysis is to become part of standard clinical practice, and
if most cancer treatment and prevention strategies are to be
based on both a person’s genetic makeup and the genetic
makeup of their specific cancer.
What is Required for Continued
Progress Against Cancer?
Bipartisan support from Congress and the administration
for the NIH and NCI has enabled extraordinary progress
against cancer. In doing so, it has saved countless lives,
both in the United States and throughout the world, while
catalyzing the development of the biotechnology industry and
promoting economic growth in America. However, there are
many challenges to overcome if we are to realize our goal of
First and foremost, if we are to accelerate progress toward
our goal, we must continue to pursue a comprehensive
understanding of the biology of cancer. This will only
be possible if we make funding for cancer research and
biomedical science a national priority. This includes investing
in the talent, tools, and infrastructure that drive innovation, as
well as advancing policies that enable researchers to more
completely understand the complexities of cancer and to
translate that knowledge for the benefit of patients.