Four of the new anticancer therapeutics approved by the
FDA target specific molecules involved in cancer and are
referred to as molecularly targeted therapeutics. They are
part of the precision medicine revolution in cancer care that
is improving the lives of patients like Ginger Tam (p. 72).
Another four of the new anticancer therapeutics are
immunotherapeutics that are yielding remarkable and
durable patient responses, as highlighted in the report by
the experiences of Dave Maddison and Bob Ribbans (p. 88
and 94, respectively). Importantly, immunotherapeutics
have been shown to benefit patients with an increasingly
diverse array of types of cancer. For example, one
immunotherapeutic, nivolumab (Opdivo), was approved
by the FDA for use as a treatment for three different types
of cancer in just 6 months.
Research-fueled advances in cancer detection, diagnosis,
and treatment are helping more and more people to
survive longer and lead fuller lives after a cancer diagnosis.
Despite this progress, cancer survivors often face serious
and persistent adverse outcomes, including physical,
emotional, psychosocial, and financial challenges as a
result of their disease and treatment. Palliative care, given
alongside cancer treatment and through the balance of
life, is one approach that can improve quality of life for
patients and survivors. Much more research is needed,
however, to identify new and better ways to help cancer
survivors meet the numerous challenges that they face.
Research is the foundation on which progress against
cancer is made. As we look to the future, researchers
throughout the cycle of biomedical research, including
AACR President Nancy E. Davidson, MD (p. 102), are
striving to accelerate the pace of lifesaving progress.
Cancer genomics research, which has been central to the
precision medicine revolution, is one area in which the
pace of progress is expected to accelerate in the future.
This type of research promises to dramatically increase
the number of potential targets for the development of
novel molecularly targeted anticancer therapeutics and to
identify markers that determine which patients are most
likely to respond to a particular treatment.
As our knowledge of cancer biology grows, it is becoming
increasingly clear that we cannot study cancer in isolation.
We need to know more about the whole person in which
the cancer has developed. This knowledge is particularly
vital for powering progress in the emerging area of
precision cancer prevention.
BUILDING BLOCKS OF
Federal investments in the NIH, NCI, and FDA have
powered extraordinary progress against cancer by
catalyzing scientific discovery and facilitating the
translation of these discoveries into advances across the
continuum of clinical cancer care. However, there are
many challenges to overcome if we are to dramatically
accelerate the pace of progress in cancer prevention,
detection, diagnosis, and treatment.
First, we must continue to increase our understanding
of the biology of cancer and to develop new approaches
to translating this knowledge into health care advances
that will save lives. To do this, we must ensure that robust,
sustained, and predictable federal funding is provided
for biomedical research, cancer research, and regulatory
science. We must also provide strong support for cross-cutting initiatives like the National Cancer Moonshot
Initiative and the Precision Medicine Initiative. Only by
investing in research talent, tools, and infrastructure;
supporting regulatory science initiatives; and increasing
patient involvement in precision medicine initiatives, will
we be able to accelerate the pace of progress and realize
our goal of preventing and curing cancer.