Over the course of my career, cancer mortality in the United
States has dropped about 1 percent each year. It is impossible to identify one
thing that has single-handedly contributed to this decrease in the burden of
cancer. Rather, the inroads we have made are a result of advances across the
spectrum of cancer research from genetic testing to targeted therapy to smoking
Everything we know today about how to take care of people
with cancer is built on decades of research. Today’s research is the foundation
for tomorrow’s standard therapy.
Research has led to so many improvements in treatment,
including new systemic therapies, new targeted therapies, new immunotherapies,
new surgical techniques, and new approaches to radiotherapy. All of these have
been vital in reducing the burden of cancer.
Nor should we forget the importance of early detection and
prevention strategies as simple as smoking cessation, which is the single most
important action we can take to reduce the burden of cancer moving forward.
In cancer, I think that sometimes we have been accused of
overpromising and under delivering. This is something we must avoid. But I
believe that if we took the fruits of our knowledge—what we know today—and put
those into practice right now for all individuals across our globe, we would
make an immediate and incredible impact on the burden of cancer.
Despite the great progress we have made against cancer, the
number of people receiving a cancer diagnosis each year in the United States is
expected to rise over the coming decades because of a growing and aging
population. We must strive to do better for these individuals. Going forward,
it would be naïve of us to think that a single discovery is going to make all
the difference because cancer is such a complex collection of diseases.
Nonetheless, I think that over the next few years, we will
see a continuing refinement of the way we use precision medicine to select targeted
therapies, improve the way that we apply immunotherapy, and refine surgical and
radiotherapeutic techniques. I am certain these areas will play a substantial
role in cancer therapy over the next few years.
Over the long term, I truly believe that we are going to see
the impact of early detection and cancer prevention strategies increase, and
that we will be able to come to the point where we can enable the concept of
personalized screening and personalized cancer prevention.
However, continued progress is going to require a sustained
federal commitment to the research agenda. To that end, we are very grateful to
President Obama and Vice President Biden for putting cancer and cancer research
on the map again in the way that they have with the National Cancer Moonshot
Initiative. This is an amazing time scientifically for us; the momentum
couldn’t be greater. So, we are delighted that they have been able to galvanize
attention about the importance of cancer research. Of course, we hope that
ultimately, this will translate into the crucial resources that are going to be
required in order to make an even bigger difference against the complex
diseases we call cancer.
It is my hope that the momentum created by the National
Cancer Moonshot Initiative will energize today’s cancer researchers and also
galvanize early-career investigators to come into the field. It is clear that
we will not solve the problem of cancer in the next several years. So, it is
absolutely critical that we bring to bear our most important resource,
early-career investigators from across all scientific disciplines with
brilliant new ideas.
The AACR is committed to bringing to the forefront this next
generation of cancer researchers, those who are basic scientists, computational
scientists, translational scientists, clinical scientists, population
scientists, implementation scientists, and more. This is because they reflect
the full spectrum of research expertise that we will need to make the next big
leaps against cancer.