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Progress Remains Uneven

Mike Hennessy
Published: Tuesday, Jan 07, 2014
Mike Hennessy

OncLive Chairman,
Mike Hennessy

There’s no question that the advent of molecularly targeted strategies in anticancer therapy have revolutionized the understanding and practice of oncology, but it also is clear that those gains have not been uniformly realized throughout the range of malignancies.

The disparities in the pace of personalized cancer advancements among different tumor types echo throughout this issue of OncologyLive.

For example, researchers have discovered a series of effective agents for certain hematologic malignancies, starting with rituximab (Rituxan), which in 1997 became the first molecularly targeted cancer drug to gain FDA approval. That record of success is continuing. Our report from the 2013 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting details a veritable bounty of targeted agents for the treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, opening up the field with fresh possibilities for drug development and patient care.

By contrast, little progress has been made in integrating targeted therapies into the treatment of patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), as described in our coverage of a presentation at the recent 8th Annual New York Lung Cancer Symposium. Paradoxically, this uncertainty comes amid advances in targeted treatments for stage IV NSCLC.

Then we come to pancreatic cancer, where the impracticality of conducting clinical trials for molecularly defined subsets from the inherently smaller patient pools of less common cancers is becoming abundantly clear. Maurie Markman, MD, our editor-in-chief, points out in his column that a given therapy may become clinically less relevant in the years it takes for a traditional, full-fledged evaluation in a clinical trial.

The underlying message here is that more research—and more innovation— are needed. The oncology research and advocacy community has been fighting an increasingly frustrating and wearisome battle for more federal funding.

We’d like to add our voice to that campaign.

Although practicing oncologists may be far from the pressures of raising money for laboratory and clinical studies, they see the results in the tools they have to treat patients.

Certainly, the care of patients with cancer will not be improved solely by throwing money at research. Yet the proper support of innovation is vital to the discovery process that has brought us so far in certain cancers yet still so far away in others.

Please let us know your thoughts on these matters and, as always, thank you for reading.


View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: 18th Annual International Lung Cancer Congress®Oct 31, 20181.5
Clinical Interchange™: Translating Research to Inform Changing Paradigms: Assessment of Emerging Immuno-Oncology Strategies and Combinations across Lung, Head and Neck, and Bladder CancersOct 31, 20182.0
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