Reflections on a Year of Progress in Cancer Research

As 2017 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on another year in cancer research. As Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), I am privileged to witness some of the most exciting discoveries that bring us closer to preventing and curing the complex set of diseases we call cancer.

By so many measures, this was a spectacular year for our organization. The AACR marked its 110th Anniversary, an incredible milestone that provided us a chance to appreciate how much progress has been made against cancer since our founding, and the central and vital role that the AACR and its members have played in fostering and propelling advances in cancer research.

Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc)

Our seventh annual Cancer Progress Report included the news that between 1991 and 2014, the U.S. cancer death rate declined by 35 percent for children and by 25 percent for adults. That translates into 2.1 million cancer deaths avoided. This progress has created a new generation of survivors; there are now 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States alone.

The AACR is proud to host its flagship Annual Meeting each year, providing a dynamic forum for researchers to present and learn about the most cutting-edge cancer research. The 2017 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., drew a record 21,900 attendees, from more than 70 countries. We presented 36 additional national and international scientific meetings, focused conferences, think tanks, and educational workshops to further disseminate the latest findings in cancer research and prevention.

Our scientific journals continued to be an important resource for scientific communication. This year, we published more than 2,400 peer-reviewed articles, and full-text of our journal content was accessed online more than 27 million times.

We served as the founding sponsor for the 5th Annual Rally for Medical Research Hill Day in Washington, D.C., an initiative that brought together nearly 400 scientific, clinical, and patient advocacy organizations to champion robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for the National Institutes of Health.

Even though government investment supports a large portion of our nation’s cancer research efforts, there is still a funding gap that prevents many innovative ideas from being turned into more progress in the future. The AACR is helping to fill this gap, and the AACR Foundation is on track to raise more than $19 million in 2017 in support of cancer research.

This past year, we announced almost $75 million in new grants and awards to senior and junior investigators that will be managed by the AACR. This included 47 AACR research grants totaling $6.3 million and $68.6 million in new Stand Up To Cancer awards.

All of these efforts are vital for our members. This year, AACR membership grew to more than 40,000, representing 120 countries. The size, strength, and passion of this brain trust will surely lead us to the next wave of progress against cancer.

Despite all of the progress, we are never far away from the reality that cancer still claims too many lives, and that it impacts us all. In 2017, three extraordinary advocates for the AACR died of their disease. We were so sorry to lose our cancer research champions, Lori Cuffari, Lori Marx-Rubiner, and Jack Whelan. Even as these amazing people battled cancer over the years, they worked tirelessly on behalf of the AACR and the cancer field. They educated themselves through the AACR’s Scientist↔Survivor Program; they visited Congress to lobby for medical research funding; they appeared in Cancer Today and in the Cancer Progress Report. They made our professional mission personal, and they, along with all those we lost to cancer this past year, will provide a constant source of inspiration and urgency in the coming year.

I wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2018!