Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD
Throughout its 112 years of history, the AACR has nurtured scientific knowledge that has resulted in major advances in the prevention and treatment of cancer. However, the cancer epidemic has continued to spread. In this time of remarkable rapid advancement in our understanding of cancer biology, the AACR has to continue to foster an environment that brings together researchers, clinicians, policymakers, patient advocates, caregivers, and patients to fulfill the common goal of defeating cancer. I look forward to taking on this challenge to accelerate progress through the AACR’s ability to provide avenues for communication among key stakeholders and inform government agencies about the high impact of supporting cancer research.
It is paramount to continue to fund cancer research and actively support the careers of the investigators that will make the difference, as has been the case in the last decades of continued improvements in cancer care. There are serious challenges in front of young cancer researchers who have invested years in graduate and postgraduate training, but find very few options to develop their careers and fulfill their goals. PhD researchers have limited opportunities to become independent researchers even after successful early careers. Physicians face heavy clinical loads and lack protected research time to keep up with the rapid pace of advances in the field. After over a decade in training, physician-scientists have accumulated debt and are way behind their peers in building their lives, making it hard to continue on the path in which they had invested so much. These challenges are even more pronounced for women pursuing a career in science, and society continues to have hidden biases that result in underrepresented minorities not having the same opportunities as their colleagues. The AACR has to continue to advocate for public policy and funding to address these challenges, which is the best investment we can make in our future to ensure that we maintain the trained researchers who will develop new knowledge to continue to improve cancer care.
Cancer is a serious challenge worldwide, but basic science implemented in the clinic and taken to society is a proven path to improvements. A near future goal of the AACR has to be to continue to increase the impact of cancer research across the world by developing strong international connections, expanding interactions through sharing scientific knowledge and advocating for policymaking, and bringing cancer researchers together across international boundaries. This is particularly important at this time of seminal advances in our understanding of how cancers develop and progress, their genetic makeup, their vulnerabilities providing targeted treatment options, and the ability of the immune system to specifically attack cancer cells.