The Global Impact of 2015
During a recent trip to Italy, I visited a university in the Calabria region, the Magna Graecia University in the city of Catanzaro. Italy, of course, is known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and spectacular landscapes. But I came away from my visit even more impressed by this university's keen commitment to biomedical research and advanced technologies and their enthusiasm for the NCI goal to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer.
Magna Graecia was only officially established as an independent university in 1998. But under the guidance of respected scientists and leaders, it has quickly become a leading research institution, including a major commitment to interdisciplinary research and technology development, particularly in the areas of proteomics and nanotechnology. Its president, Dr. Salvatore Venuta, is a highly respected cancer researcher who was educated and trained in Italy and at top-flight U.S. academic institutions and cancer centers.
Dr. Venuta's and other Magna Graecia leaders' dedication to using advanced technologies to take cancer research to the next frontier was particularly impressive, and was matched by the building of state-of-the-art clinical and research facilities. What may sometimes get lost in the debate about our progress against cancer is that our leadership toward achieving the 2015 goal is having a global impact. Because, although cancer is a major killer in the United States and most developed countries, it's in developing countries where this disease is projected to increase most rapidly in the coming decades. So our research advances will touch people around the world.
My visit also reaffirmed for me that science is a global enterprise. At a grand rounds presentation on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus last week, for example, Dr. John Potter from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center spoke about his proposal to conduct a study he calls the "last cohort." This international cohort study would follow at least 1 million people between 50 and 75 years of age to definitively identify genetic and environmental cancer risk factors. International representation, he advised, is critical to any large cohort study of this nature because of the importance of having a heterogeneous study population. Indeed, if we are to achieve our 2015 goal, it is imperative that we have a global understanding of the genetic variants and environmental exposures related to cancer.
As was highlighted in the Cancer Bulletin last November, NCI is already significantly engaged on the international front through efforts such as visiting scientists' programs and large, international clinical trials and consortia. As a report released last week in the European Union (EU) showed, funding for cancer research in the United States as a percentage of the gross domestic product far exceeds cancer research spending in EU countries. As a result, the United States continues to be regarded as the leader in cancer research, and I believe we have made - and will continue to make - the strategic decisions needed to strengthen that leadership.
I am confident that we can transform cancer into a disease that can be both prevented and managed like other chronic illnesses. To paraphrase how an Italian reporter who interviewed me summed it up in his article: Even for those who become "sick" with cancer, their life will still be long.Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach
Director, National Cancer Institute