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AACR Mourns the Loss of George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and the 40,000 laboratory researchers, physician-scientists, other health care professionals, and patient advocates who constitute our national and international membership, we are deeply saddened by the loss of former President George H.W. Bush, who passed away Friday evening at the age of 94.

Bush served for eight years as vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House himself in 1988. After he was elected President, he appointed Bernadine Healy, MD, in 1991 to lead the National Institutes of Health, making Healy the first woman to serve in this prestigious position. Shortly after her appointment, the NIH Women’s Health Initiative, a $500 million effort to study the causes, prevention, and cures of diseases that affect women, was launched.

After leaving the White House, President Bush, along with his wife, Barbara, who passed away in April of this year, served as honorary co-chairs from 1998 to 2017 for C-Change: Collaborating to Conquer Cancer, an extraordinary effort to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem at the earliest possible time by leveraging the expertise and resources of a unique multi-sector membership. C-Change encompassed key leaders from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, representing the entire cancer continuum – cancer biology, prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship.

Officers of the AACR and representatives of the AACR’s Science Policy and Legislative Committee were actively involved in the work of C-Change and attended regular meetings of the group in Washington, D.C., and in other locations. One of the events at the Bush home in Kennebunkport, Maine, was especially inspiring to cancer leaders who had become keenly aware of the commitment of President Bush and his wife to making major progress against cancer.

After 19 years of service to the community, C-Change officially closed on April 30, 2017. The C-Change Board of Directors, supported by President and Barbara Bush, unanimously decided that their original purpose of making advances against cancer on all fronts, through collaboration across sectors and organizations, had been achieved. The entire cancer research community is indebted to President Bush for bringing the broader cancer community together and for his stalwart dedication to addressing the cancer problem.

Cancer personally touched President and Barbara Bush. Their daughter, Robin, died on October 11, 1953, about two months before she would have turned 4 years old, after battling leukemia for seven months. Decades after Robin Bush’s death, significant progress in the treatment of childhood leukemia has been made. Today, the survival rate for the most common form of leukemia is approximately 94 percent, thanks to transformative research discoveries and improvements in technology.

Honoring Robin’s legacy, President and Barbara Bush became passionately devoted to helping those affected by cancer and actively supported visionary cancer research. In 1977, they joined the Board of Visitors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and set out to motivate others among the public to share in the quest for more effective cancer therapies. Lending their names, influence, and philanthropic support over the years, the Bushes helped raise nearly $90 million in support of cutting-edge oncology research at MD Anderson.

George H.W. Bush is survived by five of his children: George W., Jeb, Dorothy, Neil, and Marvin. President Bush and Barbara had been married for 73 years at the time of her death in April.

The AACR expresses our heartfelt condolences to the entire Bush family. The world has lost a great leader, statesman, and humanitarian.