PHILADELPHIA — American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) President Nancy E. Davidson, MD, moderated a special session for AACR leaders, including young and early-stage investigators and minority researchers, with members of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Blue Ribbon Panel last week to help inform the NCI’s scientific direction and goals in Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
“As AACR President, I am committed to ensuring that the AACR will continue to be the professional development resource for early career investigators, as well as those who represent all aspects of diversity in the cancer workforce, including disciplinary, gender, racial and ethnic, and geographic diversity,” said Davidson, who is also the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. “To that end, I am extremely excited that the AACR provided an opportunity for some future leaders in cancer research, specifically young investigators, women, and minorities, to speak directly to members of the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel about ways to accelerate progress against cancer at this critical time in the cancer field.”
Some of the ideas that were identified by this distinguished group to help bring about a decade’s worth of advances in five years include:
- Developing improved access to clinical trials for patients; expanding education for both patients and community clinicians; increased interaction between academia and community clinical practice; reassessment of clinical trial designs;
- Working toward better reimbursement for tumor sequencing, which would enhance the use of targeted therapies to ensure better outcomes;
- Increasing focus on research dedicated to minorities, as these populations may provide improved knowledge about the biology of the diseases;
- Finding better tumor models for cancer to identify better therapies;
- Developing a "Pre-Cancer Genome Atlas (PCGA)," a concerted initiative to characterize the molecular alterations in premalignant lesions and the corresponding changes in the microenvironment associated with progression to invasive carcinoma;
- Addressing the issue of data sharing including infrastructure, regulatory hurdles, incentives, and patient involvement; and
- Dedicating NCI’s resources to serve as a bridge between private foundations and traditional research funding pipelines.
The 28-member Blue Ribbon Panel, which includes 20 AACR members and is comprised of scientific experts, cancer leaders, and distinguished patient advocates, serves as a working group of the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) and will provide scientific guidance from thought leaders in the cancer community.
In preparation for this session with the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel, the AACR convened and solicited ideas from AACR young and early-stage investigators and minority researchers who are active in numerous AACR initiatives, including the Associate Member Council, Women in Cancer Research, Minorities in Cancer Research, NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research, and NextGen Stars, among other programs.
"The AACR is thrilled to have facilitated this meeting with the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel because we recognize that up until now, the voice of the young investigator and minority researcher has not been adequately represented,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. "Therefore, we are hopeful that the session with the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel will spur the entire community of young investigators and minority researchers to become more involved in this process by sharing their perspectives with the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel over the few weeks.”
In addition to Davidson and Foti, participants for this AACR special session with the Blue Ribbon Panel included:
- Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, AACR Past President (2014-2015); Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer Research; director, Center for Cancer Targeted Therapies and Breast Cancer Program; associate director for Translational/Clinical Research,Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee;
- Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, current AACR board member; co-director of the McDonnell Genome Institute and Professor of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri;
- Laura Fejerman, PhD, assistant professor, University of California San Francisco; AACR Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Scholar-in-Training Awardee;
- Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology; assistant professor of cancer biology, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee;
- Jose G. Trevino II, MD, assistant professor, Department of Surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida; AACR Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Scholar-in-Training Awardee; and
- Nikhil Wagle, MD, physician and assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts; 2016 AACR-Takeda Oncology NextGen Grantee for Transformative Cancer Research.
Members of the scientific community and general public are encouraged to submit ideas in support of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, hosted by the NCI.