Top 5 Advances in Modern Oncology

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1. Chemotherapy Cures Advanced Hodgkin Lymphoma

In the first chemotherapy breakthrough for advanced cancer in adults, a four-drug combination chemotherapy regimen, called MOPP (mustargen/­oncovin/procarbazine/prednisone), induced long-term remissions in over half of patients with aggressive Hodgkin lymphoma. The 1965 discovery sparked the first hope that advanced cancers could be cured with drug treatment, and paved the way for 90% cure rates for patients with this disease today.

2. HPV Vaccine Approved to Prevent Cervical Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration’s 2006 approval of the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, protects against the two strains of HPV known to cause most cervical cancers. Widespread vaccination, if fully implemented, stands to drive dramatic reductions in cervical and other HPV-related cancers in the United States and worldwide.

3. Targeted Drug Transforms Treatment of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

The rapid FDA review and approval of imatinib (Gleevec) in 2001 dramatically changed the treatment of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). This easy-to-take daily pill, which targets a molecular defect present in nearly all patients with CML, turned a disease with almost no long-term survivors into one with 5-year survival rates of 90%. It also ushered in a new era of successful research on molecularly targeted treatments for many more cancers.

4. Chemotherapy Cures Men With Testicular Cancer

A new three-drug combination chemotherapy regimen, called PVB ­(cisplatin/vinblastine/bleomycin), produced complete remissions and some cures for more than 70% of men with advanced testicular cancer. Earlier chemotherapy treatments worked in just 5% of men. This 1977 discovery, coupled with later surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy advances, made testicular cancer one of the most curable cancers and one of oncology’s biggest success stories.

5. Powerful Anti-nausea Drugs Dramatically Improve Many Patients’ Quality of Life

The U.S. Food and Drug Administratin (FDA) approval of the antinausea drug, ondansetron (Zofran)—in 1991, as well as other supportive care drugs in the following years—dramatically changed the experience of cancer treatment, bringing unprecedented improvements to patients’ quality of life. These drugs not only bring relief from intense, treatment-induced nausea, but make it possible for patients to avoid once-routine hospital stays, complete their full course of treatment and live longer and better lives. ■


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