CARLOS L. ARTEAGA, MD, AACR PRESIDENT, 2014–2015 ANTICIPATING MORE LIFESAVING PROGRESS IN THE FUTURE
During the 25 years that I have been a cancer investigator
and oncologist, I have witnessed tremendous progress
across the spectrum of cancer research, from bench
to bedside, and I am supremely con;dent that we will
continue to make rapid progress in the future.
When I ;rst started my career as a physician scientist,
our insight into the biology of cancer came mostly from
studying mouse and human cancer cells in the laboratory.
Now, increasingly, we interrogate tumors from patients,
using the power of molecular biology to identify the
molecular aberrations within them and then investigate
these aberrations at the bench. ;is means that we have
increasingly gone from a bench-to-bedside model of
cancer research to one that is bidirectional.
;e progress made in the laboratory has led to many of
the changes that I have seen as an oncologist over the
past two decades. One of the most recent advances has
been an explosion in the use of predictive genomics for
the interrogation of genetic alterations in tumors and,
from that, making predictions about the biology of these
cancers and how to treat them.
As we move forward, I foresee the increasing use of next-generation sequencing of tumors, which will allow us to
dig more deeply into the biology of these cancers. ;is
technology is advancing rapidly, and will allow us to
examine more and more genes in a patient’s cancer, and
eventually the whole tumor genome. As we discover to
what degree an increasing number of individual cancer-driving genes are altered in a tumor, the number of
potential drug targets and drugs to block those targets
should also increase. In addition, this approach will help
us anticipate the behavior of a patient’s tumor and identify
mechanisms of acquired resistance to treatment that, in
turn, can be trumped by novel therapies.
As we begin to identify more and more genetic alterations
in a single tumor, we will need to use new ways to analyze
our data. I think that the power of computational biology,
which allows us to analyze many, many genetic alterations
together, will revolutionize this area of cancer research.
One of the most important things we must do if we are
to continue transforming lives is to better support our
young investigators. We need to improve their training
and do a much better job of recruiting them and retaining
them in the ;eld of cancer research. Some of the most
transformative changes in cancer care have come from
cancer research, which is driven by the innovative ideas of
young and ambitious investigators. To me, addressing this
issue is key to progress, and I will make it a priority during
my presidency of the American Association for Cancer
Another major challenge in cancer research is the crisis
in federal funding, which sadly is occurring at a time in
which the potential for progress has never been better.
However, I am an optimist and would like to think that
there are better times ahead. But we also need to further
strengthen the alliance among patients, advocates, basic
scientists, clinical investigators, and the private sector
because I believe that support by the public will be crucial
to resolving this funding crisis.
Despite all these hurdles, we are making signi;cant
progress on all fronts, at the bench and at the bedside.
One thing that particularly excites me is that clinical trials
have already become part of cancer care. Absolutely we
could do more with greater funding and more young
investigators, but the advances we have made mean that
today in the United States, the majority of patients (more
than 50 percent) survive their cancer. However, we owe it
to those who don’t survive to commit to continue working
tirelessly. I anticipate that we will make more lifesaving
progress in the future, and I am deeply committed to
contributing to such progress.