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Special Feature on Five Years of Progress Against Cancer

 In this section you will learn:

Oncology is leading precision medicine efforts and transforming lives.

Genomics is the foundation on which precision medicine in oncology is built.

In the past five years, molecularly targeted therapeutics and immunotherapeutics have become part of routine care for patients with several types of cancer.

Big data show promise for increasing the number of precision therapeutics in our tool kit.

Genomically informed clinical trial designs are essential for moving precision medicine forward as quickly as possible.


To celebrate the fifth edition of the AACR Cancer Progress Report, included here is a special feature in which we highlight advances that have been made against cancer in the five years of publishing the report.

The year 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971, which focused the nation’s efforts and attention on the fight against cancer. Much changed between 1971 and 2011, and the AACR commemorated the amazing advances in cancer research made during that time with the publication of its inaugural AACR Cancer Progress Report.

In the four decades after 1971, we went from the concept that cancer is a single disease caused by viruses to the understanding that cancer is a vast collection of diseases, some of which are indeed caused by chronic infection with certain viruses, united by overgrowth of cells (see Prevent Infection With Cancer-causing Pathogens). More important, however, was the discovery that cancer arises from a myriad of genetic changes within cells that accumulate with time (see Developing Cancer​).

That discovery, coupled with advances in biology, chemistry, physics, and technology, set the stage for the new era of precision medicine. In fact, by January 2011, 20 therapeutics targeting specific molecules involved in the development and progression of cancer had been discovered and approved for patient benefit. Included in this list are not only therapeutics that target cancer-specific molecules, but also those that target the blood vessel growth that supports tumor development and some immunotherapeutics.

As described in this Special Feature on Five Years of Progress Against Cancer, much has changed since January 2011.

Powered by fundamental research, our understanding of the inner workings of cancer has continued to explode. As we have learned more about the biology of cancer and both the normal and pathologic responses of the patient to cancer, we have been able to develop increasingly precise therapies that reduce the adverse effects of treatments while simultaneously enhancing their ability to eliminate certain forms of cancer, including some drug-resistant cancers.

Moreover, the pace at which this is being accomplished continues to accelerate year after year, providing a glimpse of an even brighter future. For example, from Jan. 1, 2011, through July 31, 2015, 32 additional therapeutics targeting molecules involved in the development and progression of cancer were discovered and approved for patient benefit, which is more than in the entire four decades prior.