Every year brings new knowledge and insights that help to direct research that ultimately leads to improved care for patients with cancer. This report, which is based on the clinical cancer advances 2017 article published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, reviews the most important advances made in the different fields of oncology that are most likely to impact daily clinical practice.1 Over the last few years, immunotherapy has become a new treatment option for patients with a growing number of cancer types. Building on the initial successes with immunotherapy, a key next step is to understand why currently fewer than half of patients benefit from immunotherapy and why the benefit, if it occurs, may be short lived. In 2016, several reports revealed early insights into patient and cancer characteristics that might predict whether immunotherapy could work well in an individual patient. Many studies also assess whether combining immunotherapy with other cancer treatments might extend the potential of this new group of therapies.

A second part of this report focuses on targeted therapies. The research into cancer biology is propelling rapid development of novel treatments targeting the key molecules that allow cancers to grow and spread. In 2016, this strategy resulted in new targeted therapies for patients with advanced lung, breast, and kidney cancer, as well as several hard-to-treat forms of blood cancer. In addition to this, new molecular technologies are emerging that can quickly pinpoint molecular changes in the tumour or free-floating cancer DNA in the blood.

(BELG J MED ONCOL 2017; 11(2):37–45)