Annual Meeting Considers Shape of Things to Come in Cancer Research

PrintPerspectives on the future of cancer research and care, including the latest on CAR T-cell therapy, Big Data management, and international partnerships, will highlight the AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting, September 30 – October 2, in Chicago.

Stanton L. Gerson, MDIn the meeting’s first panel discussion, four distinguished cancer center leaders will share their insights and predictions for how academic cancer centers will evolve over the next decade. The discussion will be moderated by AACI President Stanton L. Gerson, MD, director of Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Gerson will be joined by Candace S. Johnson, PhD, president and CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center; and Steven T. Rosen, MD, provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Gerson will also provide an update on AACI’s Network Care Initiative, including results of a survey looking at network management; standardization of care and the use of care paths; collaboration among cancer centers and community sites; employment network models; and access to clinical trials.

Roy Jensen, MDThe meeting will mark two major leadership transitions for AACI. Roy A. Jensen, MD, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, will become the association’s new president and will introduce his presidential initiative, which aims to develop a comprehensive, cancer-specific clearinghouse of model legislation for AACI cancer centers to share with their state legislators. In addition, Barbara Duffy Stewart, MPH, will preside at her final annual meeting after 19 years as AACI’s first executive director. Jennifer W. Pegher, who has served for six years at AACI as director of government relations and deputy director, will be the new executive director.

The annual meeting program includes a panel discussion on the nuts and bolts of
developing a CAR T-cell therapy program, including intake and management issues,
standard operating procedures, financial challenges, and regulatory requirements.
Approaching cancer care from a high-tech angle, a panel moderated by Moffitt Cancer
Center Director Thomas A. Sellers, MD, will convene commercial and academic players
in the Big Data arena with an eye toward enhancing dialogue and developing stronger
linkages that could lead to expanded information-sharing and improved patient care.

With a growing number of cancer centers establishing partnerships with countries in
the developing world, the AACI annual meeting will include an overview of cancer
research and treatment efforts in several countries including Kenya, Malawi, and Cuba,
where U.S. sanctions are creating unique collaboration challenges.

Meeting attendees will also hear a report from NCI Director Norman E. Sharpless, MD,
and a panel will examine revised guidelines for NCI’s Cancer Center Support Grant
application.

Richard and Susan RogelOn Monday, October 1, AACI will present its first Champion for Cures Award to Richard and Susan Rogel in recognition of their $150 million gift to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, which was renamed Rogel Cancer Center in their honor.

Also on October 1, Charles M. Perou, PhD, will receive the AACI Distinguished ScientistCharles M. Perou, PhD
Award. Dr. Perou, a pioneer in breast cancer research and precision medicine, will deliver a talk focused on sequencing studies for gene expression analysis, specifically, on research results showing the value of sequencing-based approaches in breast and lung cancers. The May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Perou is also the faculty director of UNC Lineberger’s Bioinformatics Group, co-director of its Breast Cancer Research Program, and a professor in its Genetics and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine departments.

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On The Hill: Cancer Center Directors, Patient Advocate Stress Need for Increased Funding

On February 11, AACI hosted an educational briefing on Capitol Hill, with support from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and in cooperation with the House Cancer Caucus. The briefing focused on educating new legislators, their staff, and Hill veterans about the importance of the nation’s cancer centers. The panelists were: AACI President George J. Weiner, MD, director, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center; Roy A. Jensen, MD, director, The University of Kansas Cancer Center; Candace S. Johnson, PhD, president and CEO and director, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; and Averl Anderson, a patient advocate from Buffalo, New York.

GR education panel Feb 2015

AACI Capitol Hill cancer research briefing: (L-R) Cancer center directors George Weiner, Roy Jensen and Candace Johnson, with patient advocate Averl Anderson.

As the panel’s moderator, Dr. Weiner, who also serves as vice chair of AACR’s Science Policy and Government Affairs committee, highlighted the role that cancer centers play in conducting and supporting multidisciplinary cancer research; training cancer physicians and scientists; providing state-of-the-art care and disseminating information about cancer detection, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, control, palliative care, and survivorship.

Despite significant progress in combating the disease, the cancer community still faces difficult challenges, Dr. Weiner said. For example, many new ideas are going untested because of shrinking resources–the NIH budget has dropped 24 percent ($6.5 billion) since 2003, when accounting for inflation in the cost of biomedical research, and NCI’s budget has been cut 26.4 percent ($1.2 billion).

Dr. Johnson recalled the many opportunities that were available to her when she was a young scientist, but she is now concerned that stagnant funding will drive today’s budding scientists out of the field, thus impeding research progress.

“If we didn’t have these [cancer] centers it would be a loss to patients and everyone in the country,” Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Jensen, whose center received NCI designation in 2012, also highlighted cancer centers’ role in driving research, stressing the need for predictable federal funding in order for cancer centers to make faster progress.

Ms. Anderson discussed her volunteer work with the Roswell Park Buffalo/Niagara Witness Project, a program targeting underserved women in Buffalo. In 2008 the Witness Project set a goal to recruit 200 women to acquire mammograms. Ms. Anderson was the 200th volunteer and the only one to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She said that the mammogram saved her life; she also credited the care that she received as part of a clinical trial at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Ms. Anderson urged that myths about cancer prevention and detection and the history of cancer be dispelled. In some communities, especially minority communities, cancer diagnoses are not discussed among families and friends, she said, noting that in some homes it is taboo for children to hear about aunts, uncles and parents with cancer.

“Cancer is growing. We need to grow with it and funding must grow with it,” she said.

Jennifer W. Pegher, AACI Government Relations Manager