AACR Cancer Progress Report with spotlight on cancer immunotherapy 

Cancer research

On 13 September 2023, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) released the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023: Advancing the Frontiers of Cancer Science and Medicine.  

This report chronicles how basic, translational, clinical cancer research, and cancer-related population sciences — supported by federal investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—remain vitally important to improving health and saving lives. 

In addition to providing the latest statistics on cancer incidence, mortality, and survivorship, the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023 offers detailed updates and important context regarding the latest research in cancer etiology, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and survivorship. Throughout the report, the personal stories of patients who have benefited from innovative, recently approved anticancer therapeutics highlight the real-world impact of cancer research. 

This comprehensive report also features a spotlight on cancer immunotherapy and addresses persistent challenges in cancer research, including cancer disparities, slow progress against certain types of cancer, and the physical, psychosocial, and financial hardships faced by cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers. A call-to-action outlines steps that Congress and other stakeholders must take to ensure that the US maintains its momentum against cancer for the benefit of all patients and populations.

“The advances in cancer research, particularly in the last two decades, have been breathtaking,” said AACR President Philip Greenberg, MD, FAACR. “We are in an era of unparalleled opportunity to make even more breakthroughs for the benefit of patients. For the cancer research community to achieve these breakthroughs, however, our representatives in Congress must continue to prioritise funding for biomedical research, from basic research to clinical trials. Through the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023, we are sharing with the public and policy makers the progress that has been made, how that progress has been delivered to patients, how it has changed people’s lives, and the unparalleled opportunities that now exist from scientific and technological advances, so that they will understand how crucial it is to maintain this momentum through continued support of NIH and NCI.”

Key findings

The following are some of the key findings in the report:  

  • Between 1 August 2022, and 31 July 2023, the FDA approved 14 new anticancer therapeutics, 12 previously approved therapeutics for treating new cancer types, and two new diagnostic imaging agents. 
  • In the US, the overall cancer death rate has been steadily declining since the 1990s, translating into more than 3.8 million cancer deaths avoided. However, progress has not been uniform against all cancer types, and there are stark inequities in the cancer burden among many sociodemographic groups. 
  • Cancer is a collection of diseases that are characterised by unchecked cell multiplication. Both acquired and inherited genetic mutations, as well as modifications inside and outside the cell, can contribute to cancer development. 
  • In the US, 40% of all cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors. The decline in cancer mortality over the past 30 years is largely attributable to reductions in smoking and increased screening. 
  • Extensive research has shown that routine cancer screening saves lives. Advances in medical research are underscoring the potential for artificial intelligence and minimally invasive screening tests as new frontiers in early detection of cancer. 
  • Advances in novel and innovative approaches to surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, molecularly targeted therapy, and immunotherapy—the five pillars of cancer treatment—are saving and improving lives. 
  • Cancer immunotherapeutics work by unleashing the power of a patient’s immune system to fight cancer and have emerged as one of the most exciting new approaches to cancer treatment. As of July 31, 2023, at least 23 different cancer immunotherapeutics have been approved by the FDA. 
  • In this special section, Nobel Laureate James P. Allison, PhD, FAACR, and Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD, discuss how bringing clinical trials, immune profiling, discovery science, data science, and drug development together on a coordinated team can accelerate the path of new drugs and drug combinations to the clinic. 
  • Cancer survivors face unique challenges, but lifestyle factors like diet and exercise as well as caregiving resources like patient navigators, clinical care coordinators, and patient advocates can enhance patient outcomes. 
  • Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and wearable devices, and novel approaches such as modulating the human microbiome, will drive progress against a wide range of cancers, including those that have been especially difficult to treat. 
  • Federally funded research can accelerate the pace of new scientific breakthroughs against cancer, while policies and and public health programs can ensure that the benefits of those advances are shared equitably. 


This 13th edition of the Cancer Progress Report documents the unprecedented progress against cancer and underscores how continued investments in cancer research will ensure that treating and curing all cancers is within our reach.  

The extraordinary advances against cancer detailed in this report were made possible by investment in biomedical research. To continue this progress, the AACR calls on congress to provide robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for NIH, NCI, FDA, and CDC in FY 2024 and beyond. 

Read more on www.cancerprogressreport.aacr.org  

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