Electricity and Excitement at AACR
Intellectual electricity is always evident at the meetings of the American Association for Cancer Research, but at the annual meeting that began on Saturday in Anaheim, there was also an aura of anticipation. Repeatedly, presentations of progress in cancer research were linked to prospects for improved cancer solutions.
In my presentation, I traced the trajectory that has led to the fusion of progress and purpose. I outlined the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) commitment to leverage the investment of talent, time, and resources to further accelerate the elimination of the suffering and death due to cancer. Speakers such as Dr. Alfred Knudson, who received the AACR Lifetime Achievement Award, chronicled the exhilarating explosion of knowledge that led from observing cancer's mysterious behavior to now revealing cancer's molecular secrets.
Our nation's investment in cancer research, accelerated in 1971, has produced a golden era of progress, but it has also made possible a platinum future if we leverage the resources to match the opportunities. The intellectual electricity and the aura of anticipation evident at AACR will enrich our discovery-development-delivery strategy. Our emerging understanding of the molecular, cellular, and genetic mechanisms of the disease process has created an "inflection point" in cancer research, allowing us to make progress at an incredible pace.
Two important ways to leverage our investment in this effort are to promote Team Science and Big Science. Centers, consortia, and co-principal investigators are creating a culture of transdisciplinary collaborative research that will synergize science in the only way possible to address the unique complexity of cancer. Big Science that integrates science and technology will greatly accelerate the pace of progress in cancer research. This will, in turn, shorten the time it takes to advance from proof of concept to delivery of more effective interventions - from decades to years and from years to months.
We now have more resources devoted to cancer research than ever before. Today, 60 Cancer Centers, more than 4,000 principal investigators, and some of the most talented and brilliant scientists in the world are now simultaneously pursuing promising opportunities such as the integration of clinical research, bioinformatics, imaging, the human cancer genome, integrative systems biology, and nanotechnology.
Over the past 30 years, we have unraveled cancer's complexity and constructed a robust and dynamic cancer infrastructure. We must now nurture this new culture of cancer research to fully realize the fruits of the golden era of the National Cancer Program. By doing so, we can - and will - surge ahead toward a platinum future that is well within our grasp.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach