The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Clinical Cancer Advances 2016: Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer reviews the recent top advances and emerging trends in clinical cancer research. These advances are based on discoveries in cancer biology that are leading to improved cancer treatments for patients. Now in its 11th year, this report also highlights policy issues and developments that will affect the future of cancer research in the United States and determine the pace of progress going forward.

Advance of the Year: Cancer Immunotherapy

Just 5 years ago, the immunotherapy drug ipilimumab was hailed as the first treatment to improve the survival of people with advanced melanoma. Today, newer immunotherapies directed against programmed death-1 (PD-1) and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) proteins seem to be as or even more effective, while causing fewer adverse effects. Additional studies have suggested that combining immunotherapy agents from these two different classes of drugs may provide even more benefit, although the combined regimens can be more toxic.

Research reported in 2015 showed that immunotherapies can improve outcomes for other difficult-to-treat cancers. Within 3 months of approving the first PD-1 drug for melanoma, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its use to treatment of advanced lung cancer. This advance has major implications for cancer care, because lung cancer is the most common and most deadly malignancy worldwide.