The Year in Cancer Research: The Progress We Have Made and How We Can Go Further

Research!America

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has released the annual Cancer Progress Report, highlighting advances in cancer research, as well as advocating for sustained and robust funding for federal health agencies. AACR also hosted a congressional briefing on the progress report on Wednesday, September 21 to bring to Congress’ attention the importance of funding for research and emphasized patient involvement in moving research forward. Patient participation in clinical trials is important not only to test the efficacy of cancer drugs, but also to further the precision medicine initiative that aims to individualize cancer treatment based on each patient’s genetic code and mutations.

Dr. Margaret Foti, CEO of AACR, applauded the bipartisan support in Congress for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but in order to move forward with the groundbreaking treatments and cures that have been discovered this past year, she said, more funding is needed. Dr. Nancy Davidson, president of AACR, echoed Dr. Foti’s sentiments, emphasizing that most scientific discoveries that have yielded groundbreaking treatments, cures, and diagnostic tests have been largely federally-funded.

Representative Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ-07) shared his experience with cancer. His father died of colorectal cancer, the second deadliest form of cancer in the United States. Representative Payne noted that, however, colorectal cancer is one of the most curable cancers if caught early by screening methods such as colonoscopies. He has since become an advocate for sustained funding for cancer research, in particular working on raising awareness for cancer in minority communities, where he noted that large disparities in cancer morbidity and mortality still exist.

Cancer patients who participated in clinical trials were also featured speakers at the briefing. They discussed how the information gained thus far about genetic variabilities has been revolutionary.  They were told their life span would be short but one patient noted: “Every cancer patient has the goal to live long enough for research to find a cure.”

Other speakers at the briefing included Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, who discussed the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendations for speeding cancer research, and Dr. Elizabeth Platz who briefly described how precision medicine can be used in prevention.

On Thursday, September 22, AACR, Research!America and other advocates for medical research gathered on Capitol Hill for the Rally for Medical Research to urge Congress to make funding for the NIH a national priority. Join us in raising awareness to increase the pace of research and medical progress. For more information visit www.rallyformedicalresearch.org.

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana