Collaboration Driving Progress in Survivorship
One of the most rewarding aspects of my position as director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been the opportunity to witness the emergence of vital new initiatives and areas of research. In particular, it's been gratifying to see the rapid evolution of research into the needs, problems, and realities of cancer survivors. At NCI, we've made survivorship research a top priority. We are directing and conducting research on an abundance of important topics, including long-term follow-up of childhood cancer survivors, healthy behaviors for all survivors, and unique issues faced by cancer survivors from underserved populations.
The fact that survivorship is such a burgeoning area of research is evidence of the tremendous progress we have made - progress that clearly portends a future in which we can achieve the goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer by 2015. My optimism is well-founded: the number of people who have survived more than five years after being diagnosed with cancer has more than tripled, from 3 million in 1971 to nearly 10 million cancer survivors alive today.
One of the most remarkable cancer survivors is Lance Armstrong. Not only has he won perhaps the most grueling sporting event in the world five times in a row, but he created the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which is playing an important role in addressing survivorship issues. This past weekend, I spoke at the foundation's annual Live to Ride Gala in Austin, Tex. I was honored to be part of this inspirational event, especially because I was onstage when Bill Gimson and Drs. Jim Marks and Nancy Lee accepted one of the foundation's most prestigious awards, the Jeffery C. Garvey Champion of Survivorship Award, on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC received this award because of the outstanding work its staff has done on survivorship, including its contributions to A National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public Health Strategies, which was just released on April 15. This vitally important plan - developed with the assistance of more than 100 experts in cancer survivorship and public health, including several NCI representatives - establishes an important baseline of identified needs in the area of survivorship and recommends strategies for progress in each area. More information on this action plan is available on the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivorship/index.htm.
It is especially rewarding to see CDC honored for its work on survivorship because that is further proof of the importance of NCI's collaborations with our fellow agency. There are many programs and projects on which CDC and NCI are collaborating - too many to mention here - but they include long-standing activities such as joint work on surveillance activities and cancer registries, including the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. CDC and NCI also collaborate on the development of the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, which gives policymakers and all Americans a yearly snapshot of the progress we are making in cancer research and care.
Our two agencies also are partnering on a one-of-a-kind resource, the Cancer Control PLANET, a Web-based service that offers communities tools with which they can plan, implement, and evaluate evidence-based comprehensive cancer control programs. And NCI and CDC are working on important infrastructure endeavors. This includes a meeting in June, scheduled to coincide with the second NCI and American Cancer Society biennial Cancer Survivorship Conference (June 16-18), to identify the best approaches for disseminating cancer survivorship research and fostering transdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that support and enhance cancer survivorship research.
What is evident from these few examples of collaboration between NCI and CDC is the potential for rapid progress that can be created through cooperation and team science. With such collaborations and partnerships, we are building bridges between world-class scientists, bringing together the research and advocacy communities, and creating a momentum that will propel us all the way to 2015.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach