The Prevent Cancer Foundation was pleased to attend the Capitol Hill briefing “Building on Opportunities in Cancer Research” on December 10, 2014. Sponsored by the Senate Cancer Coalition and One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC), of which the Foundation is a member. The briefing focused on the opportunities in cancer research as well as the challenges in the coming year, as we stand at a critical juncture for the future of cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
Congressman Johnny Isakson and David Pugach, Director, Federal Relations of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, opened the briefing, followed by four key speakers.
Harold Varmus, M.D., Director, The National Cancer Institute
Dr. Varmus focused his remarks on three areas of concentration for the future of NCI including:1. Expansion of “precision medicine” based on the detailed knowledge we now have of genetic changes. Dr. Varmus went further to specify genomics and informatics, targeted drugs, new kinds of clinical trials, and better integration of cancer services into routine care as key areas for development.
2. Dramatic advances in immunotherapy which has revolutionized cancer treatment. This is a significant contributor to precision medicine and individualized treatment.
3. Implementation and new ideas for prevention and early detection which is one of the most important areas of cancer research. Specifically, Dr. Varmus highlighted wider use of cancer vaccines, new strategies against tobacco use, looking for cancer cells and DNA in blood, and the ability to better distinguish benign from dangerous early lesions.
The Foundation applauds Dr. Varmus’s concentration on prevention and early detection.
Otis Brawley, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, American Cancer Society
Dr. Brawley spoke of his early career training at NCI and noted how vital the Institute has been to progress in cancer research and discovery over the past 60 years. He stated that “NCI funds knowledge acquisition” and that sustained funding is critical to innovation in basic, clinical, and social science research. Further, he discussed the importance of behavioral health research, particularly for cancer prevention and early detection as tobacco and obesity (including poor diet and lack of exercise) are the two largest causes of cancer today.
Louis M. Weiner, M.D., Director, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Approximately 3,200 people will die today and tomorrow from cancer which is greater than the number of Americans who lost their lives on 9.11, according to Dr. Weiner. In the 90 minute span of the briefing, 100 people died from cancer. He said the solution to this devastating disease is research. Although incredible discoveries have been made since the National Cancer Act passed in 1971, the pace of discovery will slow without further investments, and future generations will suffer without the breakthroughs made possible by NCI. He stated that “NCI funding is the lifeblood of cancer research.” He also noted that when pressed about the sufficiency of current federal funding for cancer research, that it must be calibrated against the size of the challenge, which in this case is human suffering and the loss of millions of lives.
Danielle Leach, Director of Government Relations, The St. Baldrick’s Foundation & Foundation Co-Chair, Alliance for Childhood Cancer
Ms. Leach spoke as both a policy professional as well as the mother of a son whose life was taken because of cancer. She spoke poignantly about the vital importance of advances in cancer research because lives depend on the ongoing investments in NCI. She said that we’ve come a long way, but not far enough and encouraged the audience to be creative, be persistent, and like her son always wanted to be—be a superhero…for cancer research.
More information on the NCI annual plan and budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 can be found at www.cancer.gov/NCIresearchfuture. The Prevent Cancer Foundation looks forward to working in support of NCI as they work to implement this exciting plan and continue to move forward with lifesaving discoveries and innovations that will impact every American and individuals across the globe.
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