ASCO Names Advance of the Year, Reviews Top Research Trends

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In just a year’s time, four new therapies have been approved for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), treatments that are highly effective and far easier for patients to tolerate. These therapies are a major step forward, bringing renewed hope to nearly 120,000 people living with CLL in the United States. This standout achievement—the transformation of treatment for CLL—is ASCO’s Advance of the Year.

Big Gains in the Treatment of CLL: Targeted and Immunotherapies

Patients whose cancer becomes resistant to or relapses after standard CLL treatments have thus far had very limited options. But new, targeted drugs such as ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and idelalisib (Zydelig) are so effective they are poised to transform CLL care, potentially eliminating the need for chemotherapy.

For patients with newly diagnosed, previously untreated CLL, obinutuzumab (Gazyva) and ofatumumab (Arzerra) have been shown to delay disease progression by roughly a year. These agents are immunotherapy drugs that help the body’s own immune system find and attack cancer cells.

Federal Research Dollars Support Key Advances

This year’s Clinical Cancer Advances report continues its emphasis on the unique and vital role of federally funded research in advancing progress against cancer.1 In the United States, cancer research is critically dependent on federal funding, which supports research that the private sector typically does not pursue. Roughly one-third of the advances featured in the 2015 report were supported in whole or in part by federal research dollars. Among the most significant are:

  • Adding generic chemotherapy to standard advanced prostate cancer treatment yields one of the biggest survival gains ever seen in this ­disease
  • Adding a generic, low-cost, hormone treatment to standard chemotherapy helps preserve fertility of young women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy and extend their lives
  • Combining standard radiation therapy with chemotherapy adds years of life to patients with low-grade glioma
  • Identifying ways to maximize benefits and reduce potential risks from low-dose computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screening
  • New, molecularly targeted drugs help overcome treatment resistance in lung cancer

ASCO Calls for Strong Federal Investment in Cancer Research

But despite this record of success, the future of the U.S. federal cancer research enterprise faces critical challenges that must be addressed by policymakers, together with the cancer community, so that the pace of research progress can continue well into the future. In the report, ASCO is calling on Congress to provide a strong investment to the National Institutes of Health in 2015 to sustain the search for cancer cures.

About the CCA

Clinical Cancer Advances 2015 was developed through a peer-review process, under the direction of an 18-person editorial board comprising prominent experts in a wide range of oncology specialties. The editors reviewed research published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at major scientific meetings over a 1-year period (October 2013–September 2014). The report covers a broad range of cancer types and features a selection of recent trends and achievements across the entire continuum of cancer care, from prevention and screening to treatment and survivorship.

In addition to announcing the Advance of the Year, special features in this 10th anniversary issue include “A Decade in Review,” which recounts the biggest changes in cancer care since the report’s introduction, and “The 10 Year Horizon,” which previews trends likely to shape the next decade of cancer care, such as genomic technology, nanomedicine, and information technology.

Clinical Cancer Advances 2015:
ASCO’s Report on Progress Against Cancer
was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology ( on January 20. To access the full-color report and additional resources, visit

Clinical Cancer Advances 2015 is funded in part by the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Mission Endowment Fund. ■

© 2015. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.


1. Masters GA, Krilov L, Bailey HH, et al: Clinical Cancer Advances 2015: Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer From the American Society of Clinical Oncology. J Clin Oncol. January 20, 2015 (early release online).