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Cancer progress report calls for added research support

Sep. 25, 2014, 8:09 AM

There are now approximately 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States, thanks in large part to advances in cancer research and the development of new anti-cancer therapies.

In the last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six new anticancer therapeutics, two new imaging agents, a new screening test and new uses for five previously approved drugs.

These details were revealed in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Progress Report 2014, released Sept. 16. This is the fourth annual edition of the report.

According to the AACR, the fast pace of these FDA approvals is a direct result of accelerating scientific discoveries, especially new revelations about the molecular underpinnings of many types of cancer and the creation of molecular therapies to target those genetic alterations.

Additional therapies designed to stimulate the body’s own immune system are also yielding durable patient responses in several types of cancer.

However, Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University, said the pace of cancer research progress is being slowed by years of declining budgets at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Arteaga is the current president of AACR.

Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D.

“If we are to fully realize the promise of science to transform cancer care, it will require leadership in Congress and within the administration to ensure that biomedical research in cancer becomes a major priority for our nation,” said Arteaga, director of the Center for Cancer Targeted Therapies and the Breast Cancer Program at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

The recent approval of new therapies has been spurred by investments in the NIH and NCI which help fund much of the basic science and translational cancer research in the U.S.

The AACR Cancer Progress Report noted that budgets for the NIH and the NCI have failed to keep pace with inflation for the past decade, and direct federal cuts, including the sequester, slashed those budgets in 2011 and 2013.

Arteaga said many young cancer investigators are leaving or not joining the field because of these budgetary trends, and the nation is at risk of losing a generation of scientists.

Meanwhile, demographic trends in the U.S. will lead to a surge in cancer cases since advanced age is one of the primary risks for the development of cancer.

Even with new cancer therapies, an estimated 585,000 U.S. residents are predicted to die from the disease in 2014 and the annual economic burden is already $216 billion in direct and indirect costs.

These personal and budgetary realities have spurred what Arteaga and the AACR labeled “a call to action” for federal leaders to prioritize a predictable and robust rate of budgetary support that will at least keep pace with the rate of inflation.

The AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer.

AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers, population scientists, other health care professional and cancer advocates in 97 countries.

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