The remarkable progress in medical research—primarily supported by federal investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—over the past 3 decades, coupled with advances in cancer prevention and early detection, has led to a 33% reduction in cancer mortality, averting an estimated 3.8 million cancer deaths, according to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Progress Report 2023: Advancing the Frontiers of Cancer Science and Medicine. As a result of NCI-funded clinical trials, since 1980, in the United States, patients with cancer have collectively gained nearly 14 million years of life. The reduction in overall cancer mortality is attributed to declines in the death rates from lung, colorectal, prostate, and female breast cancers and melanoma, as well as steady decreases in death rates from leukemia and kidney cancer.
Of note, overall cancer death rates in children and adolescents declined by 70% and 64%, respectively, between 1970 and 2020, largely driven by improvements in treatment. As a result, the number of cancer survivors has risen from 3 million in 1971 to more than 18 million today.
Included in this year’s report is a spotlight on cancer immunotherapy—the fourth pillar of cancer care. The report also addresses the persistent challenges in cancer research, including cancer disparities; the slow progress against difficult-to-treat cancers, such as pancreatic and uterine cancers; and the ongoing physical, psychosocial, and financial hardships cancer survivors face.
Recent FDA Approvals; Trends and Advances in Cancer Care
Listed here are highlights from the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023:
Ongoing Challenges in Cancer Care
Despite these advances, the report recognized the persistent challenges remaining in cancer care, including an estimated nearly 2 million new cancer cases that will be diagnosed this year and more than 608,000 people who will die of the disease. Other challenges include the following:
Call to Action
To overcome these challenges, the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023 calls on Congress to support robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding growth for the NIH and NCI by providing increases of at least $3.465 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, in their fiscal year (FY) 2024 base budgets. According to the report, from 2010 to 2019, NIH funding contributed to the development of 354 of 356 new drugs, including many cancer drugs, approved by the FDA.
The AACR is urging Congress to take the following steps:
“This 13th unveiling of the AACR Cancer Progress Report continues a tradition of trying to raise awareness of the advances and progress that we are making in cancer research and delivering that to patients …to save the lives of patients with cancer,” said Philip Greenberg, MD, FAACR, President of the AACR, during a press briefing announcing the findings in the report. “The progress that has been made is a consequence of federal investment in the NIH, NCI, FDA, and the CDC and is a [testament] of just how effective and critical NIH funding is.”
Formation of the AACR Cancer Centers Alliance
During the press conference, Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR, announced the formation of the AACR Cancer Centers Alliance, which aims to bring together the nation’s cancer centers with the goal of markedly expanding the scope and impact of world-class cancer institutions to benefit all patients with cancer. The initiative will seek to accelerate the pace of discovery by providing an ongoing mechanism for transferring new knowledge; sharing resources; developing national demonstration projects; and driving innovation that impacts cancer science, cancer care delivery, and science and health policy. An article outlining the Alliance’s initial plans was published in Cancer Discovery and will be published subsequently in ACCR’s nine other peer-reviewed journals.
The Alliance will initially focus on four main areas of collaboration:
“The AACR Alliance, we believe, will become a powerful…force driven by the AACR, and it is an organization and an infrastructure and a collaborative alliance that we as cancer center directors have sought for many years,” said Cheryl L. Willman, MD, Executive Director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Programs, Director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, and subgroup Chair of the Alliance, Speaking With a Unified Voice. “We are so honored to be able to work with the AACR to truly achieve that vision.”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®.