Guest Commentary by Dr. Margaret Foti
A Century of Progress, A Future of Promise
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) held its 100th Annual Meeting in Denver this week, which drew almost 17,000 scientists, physicians, advocates, and survivors from nearly 90 countries.
I often reflect on what the 11 physicians and scientists who first met 102 years ago would think about what we have been able to accomplish. They knew so little about cancer or about the basic biology of cellular growth and division. Their tools were few, but they shared a belief that research would lead to an understanding and the cure of cancer.
This year, the AACR annual meeting presented about 6,000 proffered papers covering a broad spectrum of critical areas in basic, clinical, and translational research. Since our first annual meeting in 1907, science has grown more complex and global, yet we are bound together by a unifying goal to reduce the suffering and death caused by cancer.
Despite a worldwide economic crisis, the AACR continues to grow. This year under the leadership of our outgoing president Dr. Ray DuBois, we became a major cancer research funding organization as the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer. In its first year, Stand Up To Cancer raised over $100 million that will be distributed utilizing a unique funding model implemented by the AACR. The funding of translational research teams is contingent upon interdisciplinary and inter-institutional commitments and a measureable patient care benefit within 3 years. This approach has the potential to change the way cancer research is being done and to save the lives of cancer patients.
In addition, in this active year we launched several new meetings and workshops on topics that ranged from cancer biostatistics in clinical trials to translational research for the Ph.D. scientist. We recognize that for cancer research to move forward we must develop synergies between the basic biological laboratories and disciplines like mathematics, physics, computer science, and engineering. The efforts of our new president, Dr. Tyler Jacks, will play a key role in the goal of bringing these fields closer together in cancer research.
Because the federal government plays such a pivotal role in cancer funding, and shows signs of growth under President Obama’s administration, we are expanding our efforts to educate people on Capitol Hill about the value of cancer research to public health. We applaud the courageous leadership of Senator Arlen Specter, who addressed our meeting this year, and we have put together a Council of Scientific Advisors to work on strategies to ensure that this country remains a leader in cancer and biomedical research.
As we look to the future horizons of promise in the cancer field, we recognize that the hope for future cures and preventive measures lies in the hands of our young investigators. The AACR will continue to provide support and encouragement for young investigators and for women and minorities who have a passion for cancer research. Many of these young men and women are making career decisions that will affect the field for generations to come, and we do not want to lose the best and brightest minds to other fields.
For over 100 years of cancer meetings, the AACR has had the privilege of being led by men and women who honor us with their time by serving as president of our organization. I have learned so much from Dr. DuBois over the past year, and I want to publicly extend a warm welcome to Dr. Jacks, who will lead us in the year to come. Like prior presidents, Dr. Jacks brings an energy and a recognition of the need for high-quality science that will accelerate our progress against cancer.
As we close out a century of progress and open another century of promise, we look forward to what the members and leadership of the AACR will be able to do to bring prevention, hope, and cures to patients living with cancer.
Dr. Margaret Foti
Chief Executive Officer, American Association for Cancer Research