Experts Forecast Cancer Research and Treatment Advances in 2020

Around 400 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates is believed to have first described tumors as “cancer,” using the words “karkinos” or “karkinoma,” which stem from the Greek word for “crab”. Today, hundreds of different types of cancer have been described. As our understanding of this group of diseases continues to grow, cancer prevention, detection, and treatment advancements continue to evolve.

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2019 in Review: Progress Across Many Areas of Cancer Research

In 2019, research continued to drive progress across the spectrum of cancer care in the form of new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat some of the many diseases we call cancer. Here’s a look at some key developments in drug approvals, immunotherapy, precision medicine, and disparities research.

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Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Conference: Understanding Adverse Events

Immunotherapeutic advances have dramatically changed the treatment landscape for a host of different cancer types. Notably, immune checkpoint inhibitors – drugs that target the CTLA-4 or the PD-1/PD-L1 axis – have been approved for the treatment of more than a dozen cancers, and numerous clinical trials evaluating such agents in combination with other drugs are currently underway.

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Orchestrating an Antitumor Immune Response: A Preview of the Fifth International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference

Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that helps a patient’s own immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. Research on different types of immunotherapy has exploded over the past decade, and such approaches have proven to be successful for many patients. However, challenges remain, including a lack of response in some patients, development of resistance, and difficulties using certain immunotherapies in solid tumors.

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NIH-AACR Conference Explores Intersection of Cancer, Autoimmunity, and Immunology

Although checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapies are remarkably effective for patients with some cancers, demonstrating durable antitumor activity and/or high response rates, they are not risk-free. Reports of immune-related adverse events (therapy-dependent toxicities caused by non-specific activation of the immune system) surfaced early in development for ipilimumab and accompany all approved immunotherapies.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will join the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to convene the NIH-AACR Cancer, Autoimmunity, and Immunology Conference on April 15-16, 2019, in the Masur Auditorium on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

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AACR Annual Meeting 2019: Optimizing PD-1/PD-L1 Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have become part of the standard of care for more than 14 different cancer types, including melanoma, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, and to treat patients with any type of solid tumor that is microsatellite instability–high or mismatch repair–deficient. In a clinical trial plenary session held April 1 at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019, titled “Optimizing PD-1/PD-L1 Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy: Dedicated to the Memory of Waun Ki Hong,” cancer researchers updated attendees on the latest advances in the utility of this class of immunotherapeutics, either as monotherapy or in combination with other treatment modalities.

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AACR Annual Meeting 2019: Manipulating the Immune System in Cancer Therapy

Cancer immunotherapy research has exploded in recent years. This treatment utilizes a patient’s own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. While many successful immunotherapeutic regimens have relied on checkpoint inhibition, other immunotherapeutic approaches, such as adoptive cellular therapies (ACT), the use of bispecific antibodies, and targeting components of the tumor microenvironment, are showing promise in a variety of cancer types.

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FDA Approves First Immunotherapeutic for Breast Cancer

Last Friday, March 8, 2019, marked another milestone in immuno-oncology: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the first approval of an immunotherapeutic for use in the treatment of breast cancer.

The immunotherapeutic in question is atezolizumab (Tecentriq). It was approved for use in combination with a cytotoxic chemotherapeutic called nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) for treating adults who have unresectable locally advanced or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer that expresses the protein PD-L1.

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