National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
December 15, 2009 • Volume 6 / Number 24

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Guest Commentary by Dr. Alan G. Thorson

Moving Toward a World with Less Cancer and More Birthdays

Dr. Alan G. Thorson

The American Cancer Society held its 96th annual meeting last month in Los Angeles, where the Society’s national volunteer and staff leaders gathered to conduct our annual business and to discuss ways that we can position ourselves for optimal delivery on our mission to save more lives from cancer.

This year, in addition to handling our required governance business, we had an extremely informative general session centered around the historic power and influence of women throughout the history of the American Cancer Society. From our legendary Women’s Field Army to today’s “mommy bloggers,” women have helped deliver our mission in their role as the primary health care decision-makers in nearly all U.S. households. We examined how women are using their passion and power to transform the world around them and why, as we become a more constituent-focused organization, they are a critical market for the Society as it moves forward.

We culminated our meeting on the evening of Thursday, November 19, by bestowing our highest award, the Medal of Honor, on three distinguished scientists, Drs. Edward Harlow, Arnold Levine, and Marvin Zelen, and famed cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. However, a personal highlight was on Thursday afternoon, when I was inaugurated as the national volunteer President of the Society. The key to our ongoing success is the vital core of dedicated volunteers at the heart of the Society, who are relentless in their dedication to see an end to cancer. To that end, I am extremely humbled and pleased to represent the Society as its 2009–2010 President.

Our American Cancer Society enjoys unparalleled trust and confidence from the American public when it comes to cancer information and the ability to recommend what is the right thing for the country when it comes to health care reform. We have achieved that trust and confidence by bringing excellence to cancer prevention, treatment, research, and advocacy. Our American Cancer Society is respected because of its actions over the years: deliberate, cautious, in many ways predictable, science-based, and a voice for all cancer patients regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political affiliation, because cancer respects no boundaries.

In my inaugural address I drew attention to the awesome task confronting our American Cancer Society in the coming year, to ensure that the integrity of, and trust and confidence in, our Society shall not be diminished. As we have worked to improve cancer prevention and the delivery of cancer care, we have learned much about the complicated process of trying to assimilate identified problems with health care delivery into the reality of health care reform. Our task in continuing this work is immense but our resolve steadfast. As we move forward, we recognize that the solutions to issues surrounding cancer prevention, treatment, research, and advocacy must be as uniquely American as is the public that provides our support.

As a global grassroots force of more than 3 million volunteers, the American Cancer Society fights for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well through preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; by fighting back and rallying lawmakers to pass laws that will defeat cancer; and rallying communities worldwide to join the fight.

As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, about 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit

Dr. Alan G. Thorson
President, American Cancer Society

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