Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Leukemia Advances

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

  1. Jyoti D. Patel*
+Author Affiliations
  1. Gregory Masters, Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, Newark, DE; Lada Krilov and Richard L. Schilsky, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Alexandria, VA; Howard H. Bailey, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI; Marcia S. Brose, University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA; Harold Burstein and Lisa R. Diller, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Don S. Dizon, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; Howard A. Fine, New York University Langone Medical Center; Gary K. Schwartz, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY; Gregory P. Kalemkerian, University of Michigan Health System; Sandra L. Wong, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Mark Moasser, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine; Charles J. Ryan and Alan P. Venook, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco; Steven J. O'Day, Beverly Hills Health Center, Beverly Hills, CA; Michael N. Neuss, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN; Olatoyosi Odenike, University of Chicago; and Jyoti D. Patel, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.
  1. Corresponding author: Lada Krilov, PhD, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2318 Mill Rd, Suite 800, Alexandria, VA 22314; e-mail:


Ten years ago, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) first announced the year's biggest cancer research advances in the inaugural issue of Clinical Cancer Advances. Looking back at a decade of reports, it is exciting to see how transformative those years have been. Clinical Cancer Advances has documented the dawn of precision cancer medicine, the advent of effective new cancer prevention strategies, major improvements in the management of treatment adverse effects, and many other critical advances.
Although all research achievements in this annual report are important, it often seems that one rises above the rest, whether because of its tremendous impact on patient care, its pioneering science, or its cross-cutting significance. So, as Clinical Cancer Advances enters its second decade, we are highlighting the year's standout achievement with a new feature: ASCO's Advance of the Year.
For 2015, ASCO's Advance of the Year is the transformation of treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
CLL is the most common adult leukemia, and it disproportionately affects the elderly. Yet, until the past year, many older patients were without treatment options, because existing therapies caused severe, even life-threatening, adverse effects for those who were frail or had other major health problems. But 2014 brought stunning new possibilities with the introduction of four new drugs that are both highly effective and far easier on patients. These therapies have filled a major unmet need for those with newly diagnosed or resistant disease, making treatment—and remission—possible for more patients than ever.
This advance also speaks to the importance of value in cancer care. Value is a major focus for ASCO, because clinical benefit, toxicity, and cost must all be factored into shared decision making to determine the best treatment options for patients. ASCO is working to develop a physician-guided tool that will help patients evaluate new treatment options such as those highlighted in this report.
Another big change with this year's report is that clinical research advances are ordered thematically, rather than by disease area. And within each thematic section, the report not only highlights recent advances, but identifies emerging trends as well.
Clinical Cancer Advances also continues its emphasis on the unique and vital role of federally funded cancer research. In this year's report, almost a third of the studies featured were supported by federal research dollars. One featured study revealed one of the biggest survival gains ever observed in men with advanced prostate cancer. Another found a simple, affordable new way to preserve fertility for women with early-stage breast cancer, while others helped deliver new therapies for hard-to-treat diseases like brain cancer. For more than 40 years, the National Cancer Institute has funded many more clinical studies like these, answering critical cancer care questions that might otherwise have been ignored.
Despite these achievements, federal investment in research has stagnated over the past 10 years, resulting in a 23% loss in purchasing power for the National Institutes of Health. In practical terms, this means promising research is going unfunded, new studies are being scaled back, fewer patients have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, and future meaningful advances against cancer may be few and far between—unless our nation renews its commitment to fighting cancer.
Advances in health information technology (IT)—including projects like ASCO's CancerLinQ—can help overcome some of these challenges. Such technologies will enable us to capture data and learn from every patient, ultimately helping make clinical trials faster and smarter. But we cannot count on health IT alone.
As with any major anniversary, we are reminded that history judges us by our achievements. In oncology, Clinical Cancer Advances documents a decade of remarkable research advances, with progress building on progress over time. Now is the time to increase our nation's investment to ensure we can build on these advances well into the future.
Peter Paul Yu, MD, FACP, FASCO
American Society of Clinical Oncology

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