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More people are surviving a cancer diagnosis today than in the 1970s, according to a report released earlier this year by government agencies and cancer groups. That's the good news facing former Vice President Joe Biden, who's speaking with Mike Allen at an Axios event in Philadelphia today, as he continues his work to speed the progress of cancer research.

But the survival rates are still low for several kinds — including brain cancers like the type that killed his son, Beau Biden.

Expand chart
Data: Journal of the National Cancer Institute; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

What's next: Immunotherapies are one promising area of cancer treatment, but there are questions about why checkpoint inhibitors (one class of immunotherapeutic drugs) work in some patients but not others. These treatments, and others known as CAR T-cell therapies that involve changing a patient's own immune cells so they will attack cancerous cells, can also cause serious side effects that researchers are racing to understand.

Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee of Johns Hopkins University, president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research, says these are the most likely advances in immunotherapy to watch over the next few years:

  • Developing "accelerator" therapies to help the immune system activate more quickly.
  • Activating T-cells that have never been activated before by targeting monocytes, a type of white blood cell.
  • Inhibiting molecules formed when T-cells metabolize so the immune cells can better respond to cancerous ones.

Keep in mind: For breast, prostate and a handful of other cancers, increased screening and early detection may have improved survival rates while masking only minor gains in longevity. Prevention is how we've made the most headway in decreasing actual death rates from cancer — with fewer people smoking, for example — and where more progress can be made.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes on the Senate runoffs

The future of U.S. politics, and all that flows from it, is in the hands of Georgia voters when they vote in two Senate runoffs on January 5.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the election dynamics with former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat who served between 1999 and 2003.

2 hours ago - Health

Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as COVID capacity dwindles

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that struggling state hospital systems must transfer patients to sites that are not nearing capacity, as rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations strain medical resources.

Why it matters: New York does not expect to get the same kind of help from thousands of out-of-state doctors and nurses that it got this spring, Cuomo acknowledged, as most of the country battles skyrocketing COVID hospitalizations and infections.

Arizona certifies Biden's win

Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arizona officials certified the state's presidential election results on Monday, paving the way for President-elect Joe Biden to be awarded its 11 electoral votes.

Why it matters: The move deals yet another blow to President Trump's efforts to block or delay certification in key swing states that he lost. Biden beat the president in Arizona by more than 10,000 votes.