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November 2012: Letter from the Editor

Jonathan Berek, MD, MMS

31 Oct 2012 12:56 PM

In these days of economic belt-tightening, funds for oncology research and education seem to perpetually be on the chopping block. That’s why it’s more important than ever to support those who support us.

ASCO’s philanthropic arm, the Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF), has set its aim high—to create a world free from the fear of cancer. In pursuit of this valiant mission, the Foundation supports not only research but also patient education and patient advocacy programs with a focus that extends from prevention through diagnosis, treatment, palliative care, and survivorship. Since 1984, the Foundation’s Grants and Awards Program has provided financial support to more than 800 physician-scientists at every career level.

In this issue’s cover story, we take a closer look at CCF’s diverse leadership and initiatives, including new awards related to drug development and breast cancer research, as well as support for ASCO’s rapid learning system, CancerLinQ™.

The end goal of research is improved patient care and outcomes; however, as treatments get more complex, so does interpreting the value for patients. Dr. Anthony Provenzano writes provocatively on the topic in “Clinical Trials, Predictive Factors, and Endpoints: Current and Future Challenges.” In the introduction to the article, ASCO Connection Editorial Board member Dr. Hope Rugo writes that the “inexact process of drug evaluation and approval” is closely associated with “a lack of predictive factors that would help truly individualize cancer care.” Both agree that interpreting research results for individualized patient care will require oncologists to develop a “Renaissance approach” to the increasingly complex science.

As we contemplate our own challenges in funding research and interpreting advanced treatments for our patients, it is humbling to reflect on the dire situation of patients with cancer in developing countries. ASCO member Mateus Kambale Sahani, MD, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, discusses a “catastrophic” situation, in which 99% of patients in his country present with advanced-stage disease. In such situations, one often wonders where to start. Dr. Sahani suggests that we begin at the beginning—by funding services related to cervical and breast cancer prevention, as well as smoking cessation initiatives.

As always, we in the oncology field have many challenges on our plate. I encourage you to take two actions this fall to help move us forward: 1) donate to the Conquer Cancer Foundation and 2) vote in the ASCO Election for the next generation of oncology leaders.

Reprinted from the November 2012 ASCO Connection "From the Editor" column.

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Jonathan Berek, MD, MMS