In a review of notable advances in oncology made in 2018, Srivani Ravoori, PhD, associate director of science communications at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), wrote that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 18 new cancer therapeutics and new indications for 10 previously approved treatments, the cancer research community has stepped forward in support of efforts to curb use of e-cigarettes among high school and middle school students, and applauded a new law that aims to support pediatric cancer research.

What can the oncology community expect see in 2019? Dr Ravoori asked three experts for their thoughts on what’s to come.

James P. Allison, PhD, Nobel Laureate, Fellow of the AACR Academy, and immunotherapy pioneer — Dr Allison, professor and chair of the Department of Immunology and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, predicts the field of immunotherapy will continue to grow. The use of combinations of immunologic agents, as well as combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapies will continue to improve outcomes for patients.

Despite the groundbreaking effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitors, only approximately one-third of patients with cancer respond to these treatments. But Dr Allison believes that development of CD4-targeted agents, particularly vaccines, may improve the response rates among patients. He also sees development of CAR-T cell therapies and personalized vaccines continuing into and through 2019. In addition, he hopes to see progress made through research to better understand the adverse events associated with immunologic treatment approaches.

“I am very hopeful that we can make immunotherapies work even better. We now know some of the basic rules of the immune system — it’s just a matter of working hard, doing extensive mechanistic studies, and learning from clinical trials that succeed and fail, so we move forward with finding more cures,” Dr Allison told AACR’s Dr Ravoori.