A Source of Hope and Confidence
In my position as NCI director, I continue to be heartened by the fervor in the cancer community for the daily progress we are making against this disease. Yesterday, I had the privilege to receive a double dose of this enthusiasm at the University of Colorado Cancer Center (UCCC), where I toured an impressive 12-story, 600,640-square foot, new cancer research facility at UCCC and participated in the Tour of Hope event being held there.
The day's activities featured Lance Armstrong and the entire 20-member Tour of Hope team, as well as one of the world's most preeminent lung cancer researchers, Dr. Paul Bunn. Dr. Bunn has directed UCCC since its inception in 1987, and also serves as the director of the NCI-funded lung cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) at the center - one of six lung cancer SPOREs across the country. Dr. Bunn has been a tireless leader in the battle against cancer, taking his expertise beyond the laboratory and clinic to be a vocal proponent of antismoking campaigns and other activities to curb smoking. With a six-time Tour de France champion and a tour-de-force researcher/clinician on the same stage, it was a sterling example of the high-caliber team that has assembled to lead the fight against cancer.
The UCCC event also reinforced for me the Herculean success of our cancer centers program. As the only comprehensive cancer center in the Rocky Mountain region, for example, UCCC is a diverse, multidisciplinary, and cutting-edge research and treatment facility. More than 10,000 people are enrolled in cancer clinical trials at UCCC, from those participating in stage 1 treatment trials to patients who are part of some of the largest, multi-institutional prevention trials in the country.
Comprehensive cancer centers also are home to some of the most exquisite basic research being performed in the world today. Last year, for example, UCCC researchers led a team of investigators who developed the first detailed 3-D structure of the tumor antigen called large-T, a protein that has been heavily implicated in the development of virally developed tumors. With a better understanding of large-T's structure, researchers can more easily study how it functions and can develop agents to inhibit its tumor-promoting activity.
The emphasis on translating important research findings into everyday practice also is on display at many of our country's cancer centers. Based on research that has shown the strong benefits that exercise can have for cancer patients and survivors, UCCC is one of a number of cancer centers that now offer exercise programs to help patients reduce fatigue and boost their strength and sense of well-being during and after cancer treatment.
Reaching the 2015 goal will not only require increased collaboration among researchers from different disciplines, but also among cancer centers. NCI is committed to fostering such collaboration, through exciting new initiatives such as the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid, the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, and the Academic Public-Private Partnership Program, or AP4. Importantly, these initiatives also bring together cancer centers with industry and others in the public and private sectors to promote multidisciplinary research and advanced technology, with the goal of delivering new interventions to patients more quickly and efficiently.
There are currently 61 NCI-designated cancer centers and others in development. We expect to see accelerated progress in the complexity and diversity of the research they perform and services they provide. That expectation speaks to something more fundamental: a belief that we have the finest biomedical research establishment in the world and a confidence that, at our current pace, the ultimate goal of eliminating suffering and death due to cancer is within our grasp.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach