Clinical Cancer Advances 2015: Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer From the American Society of Clinical Oncology

ASCO released its report, Clinical Cancer Advances 2015: An Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer, today, and for the first time announced its cancer Advance of the Year: gains made in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

ASCOASCO credits the improvements in CLL care with the approval of four newly approved therapies: two immunotherapy drugs for previously untreated CLL and two molecularly targeted drugs for treatment-resistant or relapsed CLL. The report is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and on CancerProgress.Net.

This year’s report also features sections on A Decade in Review; The 10-Year Horizon, which previews trends likely to shape the next decade of cancer care; and Progress in Rare Cancers. In addition, the report includes information on advances in combination, targeted, and immunotherapy treatment; patient care; and tumor biology.

Advance of the Year

The four new therapies ASCO cites for improving care for patients with CLL, the most common form of adult leukemia, include two immunotherapy drugs for untreated CLL, obinutuzumab (Gazyva) and ofatumumab (Arzerra), in combination with the standard chemotherapy agent chlorambucil (Leukeran). Both treatments delay disease progression by about 1 year.

For patients with previously treated CLL that has become resistant to standard treatment or who have relapsed, two new molecularly targeted drugs, ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and idelalisib (Zydelig), which block different molecular pathways that control leukemia growth, are the first effective therapies in these settings, according to the report.

“According to striking early clinical trial results, these drugs have the potential to transform CLL therapy, potentially eliminating the need for chemotherapy, the adverse effects of which are too difficult to bear for many elderly patients with CLL,” wrote the report’s authors.

The 10-Year Horizon

The Clinical Cancer Advances report previews the following trends that will likely shape the next decade of cancer care:

  • The eradication of cancer stem cells
  • Faster, cheaper, and more sophisticated genomics technology
  • Liquid biopsies
  • Nanomedicine
  • The untapped possibilities of health information technology, such as the CancerLinQ initiative, in Cancer Care

Progress in Rare Cancers

This section details information on the first viable alternative to surgery for pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), a rare joint disease that affects about 600, mostly young, Americans each year. According to the report, early results from two small studies of oral therapies targeting a protein known as CSF-R1, PLX3397 and RG7155, are showing promise in tumor shrinkage. If confirmed in larger studies, these therapies may offer patients relief from the debilitating adverse effects of PVNS and the possibility of avoiding joint replacement or amputation.

The second promising achievement in the progress against rare cancers is the early results from a clinical trial showing that bevacizumab (Avastin) may be active against recurrent sex cord–stromal tumors of the ovary, a rare form of ovarian cancer.

Importance of Federal Funding

The Clinical Cancer Advances report also recognizes the unique and vital role of federally funded research in advancing progress against cancer.

“This has truly been a banner year for CLL and for clinical cancer research as a whole,” said ASCO President Peter Paul Yu, MD, FASCO, in a statement. “Advances in cancer prevention and care, especially those in precision medicine, are offering stunning new possibilities for patients. It is also remarkable that almost one-third of the year’s top studies were made possible by federal research dollars. We cannot underestimate the importance of federal investment for answering critical cancer care questions, particularly in rare, understudied cancers.”

“The U.S. federal cancer research enterprise faces critical funding challenges that threaten the pace of research progress,” added Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO, ASCO’s Chief Medical Officer. “Now is the time to increase our nation’s investment in cancer research to ensure that we can build on these advances well into the future.”

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