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What Progress and Promise Does the Future Hold?

In this section you will learn:

Research, in particular cancer genomics research, will continue to revolutionize precision medicine, including expanding the more precise use of existing therapies.

Liquid biopsies hold great promise for cancer detection, monitoring patient status, predicting patient outcomes, and changing therapeutic strategies in real time.

Research advances may eventually enable the development of precision medicines for all potential therapeutic targets. 

Research has powered spectacular advances against cancer, and many more people are living longer and leading fuller lives after a cancer diagnosis than ever before. Even with this progress, it is estimated that in 2015 alone more than 1.65 million U.S. residents will receive a cancer diagnosis and more than 589,000 will die from the disease (6). Worldwide, it is predicted that in 2015 there will be 15.2 million new cases of cancer and 8.9 million deaths from this insidious disease (7). Given this enormous burden of cancer, it is clear that more research is required if we are to make future lifesaving progress.

Many researchers, however, including AACR President (2015–2016) José Baselga, MD, PhD​, think that the best is yet to come, as the explosion of new knowledge about cancer and the exciting technological advances, along with our ever-increasing understanding of how to apply them, will further revolutionize cancer care.

Research in cancer genomics and its application in the clinic are the foundation of precision medicine. Cancer genomics research has dramatically increased the number of known cancer-associated genomic alterations and has thereby yielded an explosion of potential targets for the development of novel precision anticancer therapeutics. The pace of this progress is expected to not only continue, but  also accelerate in the coming years, and it will be essential to engage computational biology and bioinformatics researchers more fully if we are to efficiently analyze the information and identify the targets with the most therapeutic potential (see Going Big).

In addition to identifying new potential therapeutic targets, cancer genomics research may help identify markers of response to all forms of treatment (see Retooling). This information has the potential to change patient care, because it could allow physicians to more precisely identify those patients most likely to benefit from a given treatment, including our current toolkit of anticancer agents. Moreover, those patients identified as unlikely to respond could be spared the potential harm of the treatment and immediately start an alternative treatment, saving them precious time in their race to find an effective therapy.