The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has released its annual report summarizing “the most transformative” cancer-related clinical research of the past year. Included in this report for the first time is a forward-looking section, in which ASCO identifies areas it considers to be the most important for future research in cancer prevention and care. This report was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

As the Advance of the Year, ASCO selected “Progress in Treating Rare Cancers” on the basis of results from 5 major studies showing substantial clinical benefit for the following treatments in specific populations of patients with rare tumors:

  • Dabrafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, in combination with trametinib, a MEK inhibitor,  for patients with BRAF-mutant anaplastic thyroid cancer
  • Sorafenib for patients with sarcoma characterized by a desmoid tumor
  • 177Lu-Dotatate, a 177Lu-radiolabeled derivative of octreotide, in patients with midgut neuroendocrine tumors
  • Trastuzumab in women with uterine serous carcinoma
  • Pexidartinib, a colony-stimulating factor-1 (CSF-1) inhibitor, in patients with tenosynovial giant cell tumors

“The lynchpin of this progress has always been, and continues to be, clinical research — a process through which we learn from and build on the efforts of untold numbers of researchers, clinicians, and patients,” the authors concluded.

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Some of the other notable advances highlighted in the ASCO report focused on the expansion of immunotherapy approaches, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive cell therapy, into different cancer populations, and the benefits of targeted therapy approaches in lung cancer and metastatic breast cancer settings, as well as in older patients with acute myeloid leukemia. Studies of certain investigational diagnostic methods, such as blood-based tests for cancer diagnosis, were also mentioned. In addition, advances in patient care including early initiation of palliative care interventions, and the potential for cancer risk assessments based on evaluations of oral and vaginal microbiomes, were noted in the report.

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ASCO’s list of priority focus areas for future research included:

  • Identification of factors and biomarkers that predict benefit from immunotherapy and adjuvant therapy
  • Translation of cellular therapies (eg, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell [CAR-T] therapy) into the solid tumor setting
  • Integration of precision medicine approaches into the pediatric cancer setting
  • Investigation of approaches to optimize cancer care in older patients
  • Strategies to increase access of diverse populations to cancer clinical trials
  • Identification of genetic variants and mechanisms underlying targeted therapy toxicity
  • Investigation of mechanisms underlying the association of obesity with cancer development and outcome
  • Strategies for the earlier detection and treatment of precancers

” These priorities build on an understanding gleaned from years of research efforts and over time will evolve with the cancer research landscape,” the authors wrote.


  1. Pal SKMiller MJAgarwal N, et al. Clinical Cancer Advances 2019: Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer From the American Society of Clinical Oncology [published online January 31, 2019]. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.18.02037