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Advances in Immunotherapy and Quality of Life Highlighted in ASCO Report

By Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released its annual report, now in its 11th year, which documents the progress being made in clinical cancer research and identifies future research directions. The report, Clinical Cancer Advances 2016: Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer, was compiled by 18 experts in oncology subspecialties after they reviewed published literature and scientific meeting presentations from the previous year (October 2014 to October 2015). The advances featured in this report cover a range of topics that include cancer prevention, treatment, patient care, and tumor biology.

The advance of the year is cancer immunotherapy. Of note is its success in treating difficult-to-treat cancers, such as melanoma and advanced lung cancer. Some success also has been reported with experimental immunotherapy in treating ALL and DLBCL, as well as glioblastoma. The expanding understanding of tumor biology provides direction for the development of new therapies, and treatments are increasingly being personalized when genetic mutations are identified.

Other advances are in the area of quality of life. There is now much more emphasis on quality of life, as opposed to survival and disease-free intervals. It is now recognized that maintaining or improving quality of life is important for patients with advanced-stage disease; consequently, the balance of potential benefits and harms of various treatment options need to be considered when planning treatment.

Another advance is the approval of new drugs or indications. Between October 2014 and October 2015, the FDA approved 10 new cancer treatments and expanded use for 12 previously approved therapies. The Human Papillomavirus Bivalent (Types 16 and 18) Vaccine also was approved in February 2015. The report highlights significant study findings in a variety of areas, from childhood cancer survivorship to palliative care, and may be accessed at
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