Progress Not Perfection in Cancer Research

Cancer progress report released by American Association for Cancer Research

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) We’ve come a long way in the fight against 200 types of cancer, but we still have a long way to go. That’s the message from the latest American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) progress report.

People are living longer and fuller lives following a cancer diagnosis than ever before. These milestones are the result of cancer research that’s improving ways to prevent, detect, diagnose and treat the dreaded disease.

The successes and challenges that still face the US and the world are summarized in the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2013.

"Research the latest treatments for cancer."

The third annual AACR report offers a comprehensive look at the state of cancer research today.

Survival rates for some cancers have risen dramatically. Take invasive breast cancer, for example. The report points out that in the mid 1970s, 75 percent of women diagnosed with the disease were alive five years later. For children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the five-year survival rate was only 58 percent. Today, five-year survival rates for both diseases are 90 percent or greater.

While more people are surviving cancer, the number of new cases will multiply in the coming years as America and the world continues to age.

The AACR report outlined the following:

  • Nearly 14 million individuals in the US were alive after a cancer diagnosis as of January 1, 2012.
  • The number of new cases around the world will continue to increase — from 12.8 million in 2008 to 22.2 million in 2030 — and nearly 13 million people will die from cancer that year.
  • An estimated 1.6 million Americans will learn they have cancer in 2013, and more than 580,350 will succumb to the disease this year.

Charles L. Sawyers, MD, president of the AACR and chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said in a prepared statement, “One person will die of cancer every minute of every day this year. This is unacceptable. If we are to accelerate the pace of progress toward our goal, we must continue to pursue a comprehensive understanding of the biology of cancer.”

While the challenges are clear, the report pointed out other bright spots:

  • A total of 11 new cancer medications received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval within the last year.
  • Three existing cancer drugs were approved for new uses, as were three new imaging technologies.

Research into the genetic and molecular behavior of cancer continues to advance the treatment of the disease.

Dr. Sawyers said in a news conference announcing the release of the report, “This approach of treating a cancer patient based on the genetic and molecular profile of their cancer is called ‘precision medicine.'”

He continued, “There are now 39 FDA therapies that target specific molecules involved in cancer; 17 therapies were available five years ago and just five therapies were available 10 years ago.”

The report also delves into immunotherapy — which helps the body’s own immune system to fight off the cancer — that holds promise to transform the treatment of cancer, according to Dr. Sawyers. 

The downloadable AACR Cancer Progress Report 2013 was released September 17.

Review Date: 
September 18, 2013
Last Updated:
September 18, 2013