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New Year's Reflections

Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MPH

25 Dec 2012 11:28 AM

New Years has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s the one time of year that everyone—regardless of race, religion, or region of residence—gets together to celebrate a year gone by and a new one yet to come. For me, it’s a time of reflection, looking back over the past year, scavenging lessons to be learned, and a time of anticipation, looking forward to the year to come, dreaming of new promise and expectations....

The year gone by was one for the books—there was pomp and pageantry as we watched the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the Olympic Games, and there was mayhem and massacre with Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown shootings....

This year saw major advances in cancer medicine, as we discovered the value of TDM-1 in HER-2–positive breast cancer, the benefit of enzalutamide for chemotherapy-treated advanced prostate cancer, and cabozantinib for delaying progression of medullary thyroid cancer (see Clinical Cancer Advances, ASCO’s annual report on progress against cancer). Yet, while researchers work diligently on understanding the genetic and genomic underpinnings of cancer, the interplay between the immune system and the ability to ward off malignancy, coming ever closer to the promise of personalized medicine (and maybe even prevention) of what is one of the most dreaded diseases known to man, we face the fiscal reality of reduced federal funding, which threatens to stall our progress....

This year, we saw some phenomenally promising drugs (like pertuzamab) get FDA approved, and others (like everolimus) found expanded indications.... At the same time, however, we faced incredible drug shortages of generic drugs like methotrexate that threatened the health of our patients....

Globally, advances were made to reduce deaths due to infectious diseases, maternal and child illness, and malnutrition resulting in fewer children dying...but as the recently published Global Burden of Disease reports, much work remains to be done in non-communicable diseases like cancer and heart disease, which remain the dominant causes of death and disability worldwide.

ASCO took a proactive stance on improving quality of care—both with the publication of the “Top 5 List” and the inaugural Quality Care Symposium. Meanwhile, we saw massive meningitis outbreaks due to suboptimal practices at private compounding pharmacies....

As I look back over the past year, the duality of the good and the bad is evident—but still, it is remarkable how much was achieved.... On a personal note, I am incredibly grateful—for I realize that all accomplishment does not occur in a vacuum. It takes an incredible cohort of individuals committed to a common goal to achieve spectacular results. ASCO is a clear embodiment of this.... And so, to my friends and family, my mentors and mentees, my colleagues and co-workers—thank you! Your support, encouragement, guidance and advice made 2012 an outstanding year—I look forward to working with you to making 2013 even better!

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Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MPH