It is a tremendously exciting time for the cancer community.
Thanks to research, we are making significant progress
against the many diseases we call cancer. More people than
ever before are living longer and fuller lives after a cancer
diagnosis. In fact, the number of children and adults living
in the United States with a history of cancer rose by 1 million
from 2014 to 2016, reaching a record 15. 5 million. Moreover,
there has been a renewed, bipartisan commitment from
Congress and the Administration to prioritize biomedical
science and cancer research. In December 2015, members
of the U.S. House and Senate came together to agree to a $2
billion increase in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
budget for fiscal year 2016. Then, in January 2016, President
Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead a
“National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.” These actions have
touched off an unprecedented national and international
dialogue about cancer and re-enforced the importance of
research for improving health and saving lives from cancer.
The AACR Cancer Progress Report 2016 adds important
perspective to the dialogue by highlighting how research,
much of which is supported by federal investments in the
NIH and National Cancer Institute (NCI), powers the
development of new and better ways to prevent, detect,
diagnose, treat, and cure some types of cancer. This progress
is improving lives around the world—for example, the lives
of the 15 courageous men, women, and children who shared
their personal experiences with cancer in this report. The
AACR is extremely grateful to these inspiring individuals
because their stories, coupled with the advances described
herein, provide enormous hope for a much brighter future
for cancer patients and their loved ones.
Seven of the anticancer therapeutics highlighted in the
report harness the power of a patient’s immune system
to treat his or her cancer (p. 81). These revolutionary
treatments are improving survival and quality of life for
patients with an increasing number of types of cancer.
For example, in January 2015, immunotherapeutics that
release certain brakes on the immune system had been
approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) for treating just one type of cancer—melanoma.
As of July 31, 2016, they have been approved for treating
five types of cancer—bladder cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma,
kidney cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma—and more
approvals are anticipated in the near future.
The development of immunotherapeutics was made
possible by dedicated researchers integrating scientific
discoveries in the fields of immunology and cancer biology.
Historically, researchers working in these two fields tended
to work independently, but by coming together, they
spurred the development of powerful new approaches to
cancer treatment. As we increase the diversity of scientific
disciplines represented in the cancer research effort—for
example, by including those working in nonbiological
disciplines such as physical, chemical, engineering and
mathematical sciences, as well as computational biology
and bioinformatics—we will be in a position to make even
more breakthroughs in cancer research.
Discoveries in the field of cancer genomics wrought by
collaborative teams of researchers in the fields of cancer
genomics, computational biology, and bioinformatics
have already led to numerous anticancer therapeutics
that more precisely target cancer than the treatments that
have been the mainstay of cancer care for decades, such
as cytotoxic chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Further
collaboration from additional specialties will further
enhance our ability to exploit the enormous amounts of
genomic information available for the benefit of cancer
patients around the world.
Collaboration has been a mainstay of biomedical research,
and new and innovative methods of collaborating are
currently being explored. Among the ne w initiatives that
aim to harness the power of collaboration is AACR Project
Genomics, Evidence, Neoplasia, Information, Exchange
(GENIE). AACR Project GENIE is an international cancer
registry built by sharing clinical cancer sequencing data
from eight international institutions that are global leaders
in genomic sequencing for clinical utility. By collecting,
cataloging, and linking tumor genetic data with data on
patient outcomes from all participating institutions and
then making the data publicly available, AACR Project
GENIE will facilitate clinical decision making and catalyze
new clinical and translational cancer research.
Vice President Biden, who oversees the National Cancer
Moonshot Initiative, has said that he sees increased data
sharing and collaboration as keys to achieving the goal of
the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which is to bring
about a decade’s worth of advances in cancer prevention,
early detection, and treatment in 5 years.
We have never been better poised to realize this goal than
we are now. We have the scientific knowledge and capability
to deliver advances across the continuum of cancer care