AACR Expanding Its Community Outreach

As spring is a time for flowers to bloom, public education at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has also blossomed these past few months.

During the AACR Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in April, the AACR hosted “Progress and Promise Against Cancer,” a community education event featuring three panels consisting of leading health care reporters, top cancer experts, and patient advocates discussing current trends in cancer research and health care policy.

With more than 150 people in attendance and over 3,200 Facebook views of the live broadcast, Progress and Promise Against Cancer reached thousands of patients, survivors, caregivers, and medical professionals. Colorectal cancer survivor and advocate Kim Hall Jackson told her story during the Cancer Prevention and Early Detection panel, and explained why she feels it’s important to participate in events like these.

Kim Hall Jackson tells the audience how her experience with colorectal cancer inspired her work as a patient advocate. Photo by © AACR/Scott Morgan

“Cancer will not be defeated until all minds come together to communicate, reflect, and embrace the experiences and knowledge of others,” said Jackson, who has shared her experience in Cancer Today and on our blog.

“Progress and Promise Against Cancer served as the catalyst for this to happen. Events like these reinvigorate advocates, scientists, and doctors, reminding them not to get discouraged when hitting a brick wall. The energy of the hundreds of people working collectively is enough to inspire the world,” she said.

Progress and Promise Against Cancer also featured a Cancer Resource Partner Pavilion, where national and local organizations offered cancer resources to patients.

Jessica DiBenedetto and Andrea Wright represented the American Childhood Cancer Organization. They voiced their appreciation for a talk given by Kari Whitehead, whose daughter Emily was the first pediatric patient to receive CAR T-cell therapy.

“While many types of cancers were represented at Progress and Promise Against Cancer, we were happy to hear perspective on a topic that is so often overshadowed – cancer in children,” said DiBenedetto. “We look forward to attending in subsequent years, with hopes that there will be more advances with pediatric cancer to share with our supportive community.”

Audience members at Progress and Promise Against Cancer, held in conjunction with the AACR Annual Meeting 2017. Photo by © AACR/Scott Morgan

Richard Tsai, representing the health care social network Inspire, said, “We were thrilled to partner with the AACR and to invite many Washington D.C.-area members of our online cancer support groups to attend. Some of them told us they’d never been to an event of this nature, and that the experience sparked them to get involved as advocates with the AACR.”

Attendee Liza Bernstein, a three-time breast cancer survivor shared, “Progress and Promise Against Cancer showcased a great range of topics. I was impressed that each panel included a patient advocate and was moderated by a prominent journalist. It’s hard to find a balance between depth of scientific information and breadth of topics for a lay audience, but in my opinion, this event nailed it!”

Also in spring, the AACR was a sponsor of the Philadelphia Science Festival, hosting a booth with staff scientists on-hand to help educate children and their families through a demonstration titled, “What is Cancer?”

Hundreds of people stopped at the booth during the Science Carnival at Penn’s Landing, which drew more than 50,00 people. Many added their thumbprints to posters representing leaves on a tree, celebrating cancer survivors and honoring those who died from cancer.

“Educating young people is so rewarding. They’re like sponges, and we’re sparking their interest in science and medicine early,” said AACR Senior Program Administrator, Ashley James, PhD, one of the participating AACR scientists. “This Science Carnival also enabled the AACR to interact with a wide array of people of all ages and backgrounds to increase awareness of the importance of cancer research, and ensure the next generation will continue searching for a cure for all cancers.”

To read about previous events and learn more about the AACR’s growing public affairs program, click here.

A young girl honors her school principal by leaving a fingerprint on a poster that recognizes those who have survived cancer.