2018 Annual Report

Driven by Research

The pace at which research discoveries are being converted to new anticancer therapeutics has been accelerating in recent years, as illustrated by the fact that the number of new anticancer therapeutics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2009 to 2018 (yellow bar) was more than double the number approved by the agency in the previous decade (1999-2008; blue bar). Adapted from the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2018 (Fig. 9).
Research discoveries providing deep insights into the complexities of cancer are driving vital progress in public health and spurring the development of lifesaving improvements across the cancer care spectrum. Research-fueled advances in 2018 include the 18 new therapeutics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating patients with various types of cancer. During this time period, the FDA also approved 10 previously approved anticancer therapeutics for treating new types of cancer.

One of the areas of cancer treatment in which researchers are making extraordinarily rapid progress is immunotherapy, which refers to the use of therapeutics that harness the power of a patient’s own immune system to treat his or her cancer. These revolutionary anticancer therapeutics include seven of the therapeutics to gain FDA approvals in 2018. Including these approvals, the number of types of cancer that can be treated by at least one immunotherapeutic has more than tripled in the past decade, increasing from just six to 20.

Discoveries that deepen our understanding of cancer biology are continuing to catalyze the development of new therapeutics that target specific molecules involved in cancer and to expand the use of those agents that have already been approved. These anticancer therapeutics are referred to as molecularly targeted therapeutics. Eighteen such therapeutics gained FDA approvals in 2018, including larotrectinib (Vitrakvi), which is the first molecularly targeted therapeutic to be approved for use based solely on whether a patient has a tumor with certain molecular characteristics rather than where in the body the tumor originated. Molecularly targeted therapeutics are part of the precision medicine revolution that is ensuring that more and more people live longer, higher-quality lives after a cancer diagnosis, including Ron Scolamiero (above).

Another two anticancer therapeutics to gain FDA approvals in 2018 are providing oncologists with an exciting new way to use radiotherapy to treat neuroendocrine tumors. These pioneering targeted radiotherapeutics are benefiting many patients, including Nicole DiCamillo (right).

The AACR is proud to have helped catalyze the progress made against cancer in 2018 through its many programs, services, and initiatives. For example, early data from one of the trials that led to the November 2018 approval of larotrectinib for treating certain patients with solid tumors that have a particular type of NTRK gene mutation were presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016.

With the number of cancer cases diagnosed in the United States rising every year, it is vital that the AACR increase public understanding of cancer and the importance of cancer research for saving lives. The annual AACR Cancer Progress Report is a cornerstone of these educational efforts and the AACR’s efforts to advocate for increased annual federal funding by government entities that fuel progress against cancer and improve public health, in particular the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), FDA, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The AACR Cancer Progress Report 2018 achieves these goals by chronicling how federally funded research discoveries ignited progress against cancer over a 12-month period. The report also highlights that unwavering, bipartisan support from Congress, in the form of robust, sustained, and predictable annual increases in funding for the NIH, NCI, FDA, and CDC, is vital if we are to save more lives from cancer.

As AACR President (2018–2019) Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR, noted in the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2018, “Enlisting experts from an even broader spectrum of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and computer science, will significantly accelerate the pace of progress in the future.”

Nicole DiCamillo
Cancer Survivor

Enlisting experts from an even broader spectrum of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and computer science, will significantly accelerate the pace of progress in the future.

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR,
AACR President (2018-2019)
AACR Cancer Progress Report 2018