A cancer patient holds the IV tubes during chemotherapy.
Cancer: The facts
01:00 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Cancer experts have made two calls for action from US lawmakers this year: fix the ongoing cancer drug shortage, and increase funding for cancer research.

The American Association for Cancer Research, in its annual cancer progress report released Wednesday, highlighted the recent improvements that the United States has made in reducing cancer deaths and advancing treatment, as well as the challenges of an ongoing shortage of chemotherapy medications and growing concern about the future funding of cancer research.

“The drug shortages are an enormous, complex problem and in part reflect an economic challenge, where essentially the low profit margin for some of these generic drugs disincentivizes companies from committing to producing them,” said Dr. Philip Greenberg, president of the association and an author of the new report.

He said the shortage means some cancer patients are not able to access medications that have been maintaining their fight against the disease, and others are not able to start treatment regimens that they may need.

“That is an obstacle, and it needs to be addressed, and I don’t think a lot of these things can just be left to the private sector to solve. Some of this is going to have to require regulation to fix,” he said. “People’s lives are really at stake here, both in terms of quality of life and duration of life.”

Greenberg and his colleagues plan to meet with lawmakers in Washington this week to discuss the report and what its findings mean.

The report champions how over the years, advances in cancer therapeutics have played a role in helping reduce the rate of cancer deaths in the United States by 33% between 1991 and 2020, which translates to about 3.8 million deaths from cancer being averted.

Among the advances detailed in the report are the 14 new anticancer therapeutics that the US Food and Drug Administration approved between August 2022 and July 2023, including a novel gene-therapy-based immunotherapy for bladder cancer, an antibody-drug conjugate for ovarian cancer and four new T-cell engaging antibodies for certain blood cancers. But treatments like those can only make an impact if patients have access to them.