As participants in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer wound their way through Chicago this week, oncologists and cancer researchers met close by at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology to discuss the latest research in the field. At the meeting's opening session, American Cancer Society CEO John Seffrin said, "We are at an unprecedented place in our understanding" of cancer, and added that cancer death rates are dropping, and doctors must take the opportunity to keep this trend going by teaching their patients everything they know about preventing cancer. Further, "we must not be apologetic about demanding resources for cancer research. … It's a good investment," he added.
In his presidential address, ASCO president and Stanford University pediatric cancer researcher Michael Link discussed how pediatric cancer research can serve as a model for cancer research in general. In particular, the kinds of wide-ranging international collaborations that Link has been involved in show how important it is to leverage the expertise and knowledge of as many different groups and researchers as possible. Pediatric oncology pioneered the multi-disciplinary approach to cancer research, Link said. And because such big strides have been made in pediatric oncology, and many patients are living into adulthood, researchers can focus on the survivors and glean information on the long-term effects of treatment that aren't apparent or can't be measured in older patients. This, in turn, allows researchers to refine and improve treatments that can be used for all cancer patients, make them less toxic, and improve all patients' quality of life.
Cancer is a "collection of orphan diseases," Link said, adding that collaboration among researchers is the way to understand these diseases and treat them.
Daily Scan's sister publication Cancer Minute has more on the ASCO meeting here.