The annual AACR Cancer Progress Reports over the past 12 years have documented unprecedented advances against cancer. The progress is illustrated by approvals of revolutionary anticancer treatments that have brought cures to countless patients with cancer; millions of lives that have been saved because of improvements in cancer prevention and early detection; and a consistent increase in the number of children and adults who are living longer and fuller lives after a cancer diagnosis. This twelfth edition of the Report continues the tradition of disseminating the knowledge of groundbreaking advances against cancer to the American public, policy makers, and the cancer research community.
The AACR Cancer Progress Report 2022 highlights the continued decline in the overall cancer mortality rate that has translated into nearly 3.5 million cancer deaths avoided between 1991 and 2019. In recent years, the pace of the decline has accelerated, as reflected by a 2.3 percent decrease in cancer deaths every year between 2016 and 2019. The number of cancer survivors has increased by more than one million in just the past three years and, as of January 2022, there were more than 18 million cancer survivors living in the U.S.
The tangible progress being made against cancer is also underscored by the new precision medicine-based therapeutics that were approved during the 12 months covered by this report. Many of the newly approved therapeutics have expanded the number of treatment options for patients with cancer, while some have provided the first ever therapeutic option for certain diseases, including some difficult-to-study rare forms of cancer.
An emerging approach to cancer care is the use of combinations of two or more different types of therapeutics. During the period covered in this report, FDA approved new combinations of two radionuclides to visualize and destroy prostate cancer cells; two molecularly targeted therapeutics to treat any solid tumor with a specific genetic alteration; and two immunotherapeutics, one of which targets a novel immune checkpoint protein, to treat metastatic melanoma. Similar and several new and novel types of treatment combinations are anticipated to be approved in the coming years and will solidify the importance of combination therapy as the sixth pillar of the cancer treatment paradigm.
A new wave of scientific and technological innovation has also revealed the potential of cutting-edge tools, such as liquid biopsies and AI-driven software systems, in early detection and diagnosis of cancers. Some of these tools have been already approved by FDA, and are transforming the future of early detection, interception, diagnosis, treatment, and disease surveillance. Others, such as single-cell characterization of tumors and state-of-the-art imaging techniques, will help researchers decode some of cancer’s most elusive questions, such as heterogeneity and tumor evolution and treatment resistance.
Despite the major progress that is being made against cancer, as detailed in the report, there are several areas in cancer research and patient care that need to be addressed in order to provide opportunities for further advances. As highlighted throughout the report, racial and ethnic minorities and medically underserved population groups in the U.S. continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of cancer. The epidemic of obesity in U.S. adults and youth, and that of e-cigarette use in the U.S. youth, continue to threaten the progress made against cancer. Awareness of and adherence to routine cancer screening continue to be suboptimal. Participation and diversity in clinical trials that are reflective of the U.S. cancer burden continue to be minimal. Financial burden of a cancer diagnosis on those directly affected by it, as well as on the U.S. economy, continues to be substantial. And while cancer screening and clinical trials—both of which were severely impacted by COVID-19—are returning to prepandemic levels, the full impact of the pandemic on cancer research and patient care remains to be seen.
Based on the evidence presented in the report, AACR calls upon Congress for its resolute and trusted bipartisan support to make medical research a long-term strategic priority for our nation (see AACR Call to Action). All stakeholders in the cancer care continuum, dedicated to working together to fundamentally changing the burden of cancer, can seize the unprecedented scientific opportunities that lie ahead for making strides to eradicate cancer in the U.S. and worldwide.Next Section: AACR Call to Action Previous Section: Impacting the Future of Cancer Research and Patient Care Through Evidence-Based Policies