Front-line bedside decisions using targeted therapies based on a patient’s genomic profile is a long-time wish that is now being fulfilled thanks to significant strides in cancer research, according to Clinical Cancer Advances 2013: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer.

From basic foundational research leading to the first active drug for treatment-resistant thyroid cancer, to game-changing immune-checkpoint inhibitors against a broad variety of tumors, to the first-ever targeted treatment for cervical cancer, 2013 has seen major advances in cancer research and treatment, notably in precision medicine and immunotherapy.

“It was hard to limit our gains to such a small number,” Jyoti D. Patel, MD, executive editor, told of the 76 studies included in the independent report. “The list is what we should be most proud of as a community.”

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Included are studies on prevention and screening (including paradigms aimed at reducing disparities), tumor biology and developmental therapeutics, treatment, patient and survivor care, biomarkers, in addition to quality cancer care. Specific cancers addressed are blood and lymphatic, breast, central nervous system, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecologic, head and neck, lung, and pediatric as well as melanoma and sarcoma.

These studies “represent the invaluable contributions of thousands of patients who participate in clinical trials and the scientists who conduct basic and clinical research,” wrote Clifford A. Hudis, MD, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) president, in a message preceding the report.

Now in its ninth year, the report “really catalogs over an entire year what we do every day,” Dr. Patel said, adding, “we owe it to our patients [and] we owe it to the American public” to be accountable for the time and money invested in cancer research.

It’s especially exciting when that research translates into a cure, such as that demonstrated with cervical cancer, she noted. “Improvement in quality of life and survival is new to us,” said Dr. Patel, who is based at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL.

For example, “to think of metastatic disease, particularly in lung cancer, see gains that translate into chronic disease, where patients continue to work and lead really full lives,” represents “uncharted territory.”

Dr. Patel indicated these gains serve as a “call to action” to “do the right things as a society for our patients,” even in the face of waning federal investment—less than 15% of federal funding for cancer research is now being spent on clinical trials—or lack of commercial interest.

Noting most oncologists have a “truly microscopic view of our own cancers,” said Dr. Patel, and explained that ASCO is “uniquely poised” to assemble quite a diverse group of specialists, such that both pediatricians and gynecologists not only can find common ground but relevance in each other’s specialties.

The peer-review process begins immediately after the ASCO Annual Meeting in June, with 18 specialty editors tasked with identifying “advances in cancer research with the greatest potential to improve patient care and quality of life,” the report noted. An advisory board of experts then provides an additional round of review prior to submitting for final review by Dr. Patel and Bruce J. Roth, MD—the co-executive editors. Dr. Roth is from the Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO.

Dr. Patel said practicing physicians, physicians in training, fellows—anyone involved in cancer care—will find the annual report useful and should be prepared for questions about the review from patients and other stakeholders.

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