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250 Years of Advances Against Cancer - 2000s

2001
The drug imatinib mesylate, the first anticancer drug developed specifically to target the molecular defect that causes a particular type of cancer, is shown to be effective against chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Later, it would also be shown to be effective in the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).
2002
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) publishes a monograph on tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking (secondhand smoke) that categorizes secondhand smoke as carcinogenic to humans.
2003
Results from the NCI-sponsored Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) show that the drug finasteride, which reduces the production of male hormones in the body, lowers a man's risk of prostate cancer by about 25 percent, demonstrating that prostate cancer, like breast cancer, can be prevented.

The dug bortezomib is granted accelerated approval by the FDA for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Bortezomib represents a new class of targeted agents that inhibit proteasomes, structures inside cells that degrade proteins that are damaged or no longer needed.
2004
Letrozole is the second aromatase inhibitor approved by the FDA for the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have already been treated with tamoxifen. It would later be approved as an initial hormonal treatment for women with estrogen receptor-positive disease.

The monoclonal antibody bevacizumab is approved by the FDA for use with other drugs in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. Bevacizumab blocks the activity of vascular endothelial growth factor, an angiogenesis factor that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels to tumors.

The monoclonal antibody cetuximab is approved by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. Cetuximab inhibits the activity of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein that is often overexpressed by colorectal cancer cells, causing them to proliferate uncontrollably.

Results of two randomized controlled clinical trials, one supported by NCI, show that the drug docetaxel (a taxane) can lengthen the survival of men with metastatic hormone-insensitive prostate cancer.
2005
Exemestane becomes the third aromatase inhibitor approved by the FDA for the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have already been treated with tamoxifen. The approval is based on the results of a large, international randomized controlled clinical trial.

NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) announce the launch of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project, a collaborative effort aimed at systematically exploring the genomic changes in lung, brain (glioblastoma), and ovarian cancer. The number of cancers studied would later be increased to more than 20.

Results of an NCI-supported randomized controlled clinical trial show that patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most deadly type of glioma, lived longer if they received post-operative chemotherapy with the oral drug temozolomide in combination with radiation therapy after surgery to remove their tumor than patients treated with surgery and radiation therapy but not chemotherapy. Based on the results of this trial, temozolomide, an alkylating agent, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of GBM.
2006
Initial results of the NCI-sponsored Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR) show that postmenopausal women who are at increased risk of breast cancer can reduce their risk of developing the disease if they take the drug raloxifene, an antiestrogen agent already approved by the FDA for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. Mature results from STAR would later show that raloxifene is somewhat less effective than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer but that it also has less toxicity, including a substantially lower risk of endometrial cancer.

The anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil, which protects against persistent infection with the two types of HPV that cause approximately 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer worldwide, is approved by the FDA. NCI scientists developed the underlying technology used to make Gardasil, which also provides protection against the two types of HPV that are responsible for 90 percent of all cases of genital warts.

The drugs thalidomide and lenalidomide (a thalidomide derivative) are approved by the FDA for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Thalidomide is a tranquilizer and antiemetic drug that was used initially to prevent morning sickness in pregnant women but was withdrawn from the market in the early 1960s after it was found to cause birth defects.
2007
Results of an NCI-supported, randomized controlled clinical trial show that adult patients with previously untreated acute promyelocytic leukemia who received arsenic trioxide after standard chemotherapy had longer disease remissions and longer overall survival than patients who received standard chemotherapy alone.
2008
Results from a large, NCI-sponsored multicenter study show that the accuracy of computerized tomographic colonoscopy (also known as virtual colonoscopy) is similar to that of standard optical colonoscopy in detecting intermediate-size and large colorectal polyps, suggesting that the procedure could serve as an initial screening exam for colorectal cancer.

The first TCGA results are announced—findings from a large-scale study of the brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Three previously unreported gene mutations and core cell-signaling pathways that are disrupted in this type of brain cancer are described; other analyses would show that GBM actually consists of four different subtypes that differ in their responsiveness to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Results of the first study to use a cancer patient's own immune system cells that were genetically modified in the laboratory to target a specific antigen on the patient's cancer cells are reported. Although initially tested in a patient with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, this type of treatment, called "adoptive immunotherapy with T cells expressing a tumor-specific chimeric T-cell receptor," would be later be studied in the treatment of melanoma, leukemia, neuroblastoma, and other cancers.
2009
Results of the NCI-sponsored Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, a randomized controlled clinical trial, show that screening men 55 years of age and older with PSA tests and digital rectal exams was not effective in reducing prostate cancer mortality.

The FDA approves Cervarix, a second vaccine that protects against persistent infection with the two types of HPV that cause approximately 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer worldwide. Cervarix does not protect against HPV types that cause genital warts.
  • Updated: February 10, 2014