Cells on the rise

AACR by the numbers: abstracts by targets, indications, modalities, cell types

This year’s meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will keep the spotlight on immuno-oncology, where preclinical science is continuing to expand the use of different types of innate and adaptive immune cells in a range of different cancers. Other highlights include a rising profile of ovarian cancer and at least 21 new targets covering DNA damage repair or pathways of cancer metabolism.

BioCentury’s second annual analysis of the almost 6,000 AACR abstracts recapitulates several of the themes from last year, showing a steady growth in cancer immunotherapy against a backdrop of decades-old targets that still occupy, at least numerically, a dominant position.

The meeting takes place on April 1-5 in Washington, D.C., and represents one of the biggest collections of preclinical cancer research. Its abstracts, released one month ago, provide a snapshot of the state of cancer research and trends in the field.

Across indications and targets, the bulk of the activity is in areas already well represented in clinical development. Three of the top cancers studied - breast, lung and prostate - each have dozens of compounds in clinical development, according to BioCentury’s BCIQ database. (see “Top Indications at AACR 2017”).

Figure: Top indications at AACR 2017

Breast cancer, featuring in about 1,200 abstracts for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting next week, continues to be the biggest focus in preclinical cancer research, trailed distantly by lung, colorectal and prostate cancer. Abstracts mentioning brain or ovarian cancer increased significantly over 2016, while only leukemia and skin cancer saw fewer mentions than last year. Although year-on-year the proportion of most subtypes remained consistent within each cancer type, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) grew to account for 43% of all pancreatic cancer mentions. Lymphoma includes both Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), with T cell lymphoma, B cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) categorized as NHL subtypes and cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) categorized as a subtype of T cell lymphoma. The chart depicts 13 cancer types that are mentioned in 100 abstracts or more, broken down by cancer subtype. “Unspecified subtype” includes the number of abstracts that did not fall into the selected categories. Source: AACR abstracts (as of March 2, 2017)

However, the spread largely reflects the distribution of NIH funding, which is weighted to the

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