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AACR Looks Ahead

Posted 4/9/2015

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  Like ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology), AACR is an organization that you should know. The American Association for Cancer Research represents laboratory and clinical scientists who are engaged in basic, translational, and clinical cancer research. Their annual meeting inevitably suggests new and exciting endeavors, and their website is worth exploring.

  This is an introduction to an interview with Dr. Nancy Davidson who is the new AACR President. Dr. Davidson is a well known and respected breast cancer oncologist from North Carolina who is talking here with Cure Today about her vision for the future of cancer research. Here is an excerpt from this piece and then a link to read more.

Future AACR President Discusses Leadership Goals, Advancing Cancer Research and Precision Medicine

Nancy E. Davidson has been elected as the AACR president-elect for 2015-2016 and will be assuming the role of president in April 2016. As the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC Cancer Center, a medical oncologist, and a physician-scientist with a focus on clinical and translational breast cancer research, Davidson is involved in nearly every step of cancer research from the lab to the clinic.

Davidson discusses her leadership plans for the AACR, as well as precision medicine in oncology, challenges with research funding, and the role of epigenetics in breast cancer.

What do you hope to accomplish as AACR president?

The AACR has been in existence since 1907. It is probably one of the oldest of the cancer-related professional societies in the world. This is an organization with long-standing goals, and I think the purpose of a volunteer president like myself is to continue to push for those goals.

What the AACR emphasizes, and what I will also, is to create new knowledge about cancer and to advance human health. We want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to give our members the advantages they need to accomplish their professional goals. Our members can’t accomplish those goals if there are no resources. There is a lot of emphasis right now on trying to maintain, and hopefully advance, our research funding in this country. That will be a big mission for us.

We are also putting effort into thinking about our workforce, and making sure that people are still coming to work in this field. Cancer, despite our best efforts, is not going away anytime soon. We need to make sure that we have the next generation of individuals who are passionate about cancer research and are productive.

Lastly, I am a physician-scientist by training, so I do want to make sure we think of the entire spectrum of cancer research. This includes the most basic discoveries, all the way through to how we take insights about cancer and disperse them into the community.

What do you see as the primary barrier to the continued advancement of cancer research today?

The biggest challenge in cancer research that is different from a decade ago is the resource problem. Now is a time when our momentum has never been higher. There are so many opportunities to apply what we are learning about normal and malignant cells and panomics, which are genomics, proteomics and transcriptomics. Scientifically, we have this giant opportunity and momentum; unfortunately, it is paired with a time of great economic stress. That is different from a decade ago.

The National Institutes of Health doubled the budget for research between 1998 and 2003. This was an opportunity for a lot of people to come into the field, for new projects to start up, and for new ideas to emerge. However, it came to a screeching halt after that build-up. This is a huge problem. There is a real mismatch between scientific opportunity and resources


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