The American Association for Research on Cancer (AACR) annual meeting took place last week in New Orleans, involving close to 20,000 participants covering academia, government organisations, charities and private industry. Quite a few Epicentre colleagues were at the AACR this year, and had some interesting post-meeting thoughts. For those who have participated in previous AACR meetings, they can be over-whelming with multiple sessions crossing diverse subjects from latest developments in immunotherapy, basic biology, genetics and treatments. Some of the areas of most interest to Epicentre tend not to be the most prominent, although there were numerous poster sessions on epidemiology, prevention and early detection. As always, the chance meetings that take place around these posters tend to result in the most fruitful discussions, and even plant the seed for future collaborations.
One highlight of the AACR this year was however the contribution from the US vice-president Joe Biden, who is heading up the US National Cancer Moonshot Initiative that was launched by President Obama last January. He is launching a process with a goal of increasing funding and removing barriers to cancer research that will lead to an increase in the rate of identifying new discoveries and implementing them. His broad ranging speech has been made available as a webcast on the AACR website, and included some very pertinent insights including a greater need to collaboration and sharing data. He referred to the greater level of collaboration that occurs across disciplines in cancer although lamented the barriers that occur. These include the vast amounts of data either stored in private databases or published in journals with costly paywalls. He stressed the need for incentives to validate the findings in published research in order to advance discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic, the opening up of clinical trials to early stages of disease and to combination therapies, and the need to free young investigators from the endless task of writing grants. He spoke of his mission being to bring together human, financial and knowledge resources in the world to seize the moment, and make progress in 5 years what would otherwise takes decades. Finally, he spoke of being on ‘the cusp of an inflexion point in the fight against cancer with many breakthroughs on the horizon’, and cited the emergence of collaborative, interdisciplinary research and international team science that has provided a renewed sense of hope – as well as expectation – for the future.
Research Interests: Cancer aetiology and prevention.
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