The AACR Cancer Progress Report 2021 celebrates the gains made in cancer research since the National Cancer Act was signed into law on December 23, 1971. The report also recognizes the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on cancer research and patient care, the disproportionate toll both cancer and the pandemic continue to have on racial and ethnic minorities, and the overwhelming financial burden cancer and the coronavirus are having on the U.S. economy.
According to the Cancer Progress Report, in 2020, the United States spent an estimated $200.7 billion of total health-care costs on cancer-related health care, and that number is expected to increase to $245.6 billion over the next decade. In addition, these costs do not reflect the additional indirect cost due to lost earnings or lost productivity or the potential negative economic impact of COVID-19 on cancer-related health care.
Progress Against Cancer
The cumulative effect of advances in cancer over the last 50 years has resulted in reduced overall cancer incidence and death rates in the United States and rising numbers of cancer survivors. According to the AACR’s analysis:
Breakthroughs in Treatment
According to the report, from August 1, 2020, to July 31, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved:
AACR Issues Call to Action for Continued Federal Investment in Research
Despite the improvements in cancer incidence and mortality in the United States, this year, 1.9 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, and over 600,000 will die from the disease. The report acknowledges that continuing research progress in cancer care will take increased government support and provides a call to action, including:
Addressing Health Inequities
While the gains made in cancer care over the last 50 years are impressive, the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2021 acknowledges that not all patients are benefiting from these advances equally.
David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, FAACR
“The stark reality is that certain segments of the population, including racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations, continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of cancer,” said David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, FAACR, President of AACR, Chair of the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2021 Steering Committee, and Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center, during a virtual Congressional briefing on the report. “For many of the same reasons, these populations have also been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This is unacceptable and it is imperative that all stakeholders in the medical research community work together to better understand and address health disparities.”
The Golden Age of Cancer Research
The progress that has been made since the National Cancer Act was signed into law is so extraordinary, it has ushered in the golden age of cancer research, according to Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, FAACR, one of the speakers at the Congressional briefing.
Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, FAACR
“As this year’s report reflects, we continue to make remarkable progress against cancer. It’s so remarkable, in fact, I believe we will come to think of this time now, this period we are living in today, as the golden age of cancer research, where cancer mortality rates have been declining since the early 1990s. And that rate of decline has accelerated in the past years,” said Dr. Sharpless. “We’ve also seen a boom in FDA approvals for cancer drugs and devices in recent years and the rate of exciting new technologies that have created new opportunities across the spectrum from prevention and diagnosis to survivorship.”
To ensure that medical research continues to drive progress against cancer, Dr. Tuveson issued a call to action for Congress, the Administration, and the public to make research funding through the NIH a national priority.
“The AACR urges Congress to continue to support robust, sustained, and predictable annual growth in funding of the NIH and the NCI, and to provide consistent and sufficient annual funding for the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These actions will ensure that we continue on the path of life-saving progress for all patients with cancer in the United States and around the world,” he concluded.
For more information on the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2021, visit cancerprogressreport.aacr.org.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.