In a very simple sense, the problem of cancer is fundamental to the existence of humans.
This assertion is based on biology—the structure and function of genes and their interactions with our environment over the course of a lifetime. It is fair to say that for all eternity we will have to confront the possibility of malignancy and the need for effective treatment.
On the other hand, the advances in treatment and prevention we have made over the past century (a virtual blink of the eye in the history of humankind) suggest that the decades and centuries ahead will see unimaginable and dramatic changes in the meaning and implication of malignancies for individuals and for society. As science advances, no longer must a diagnosis of cancer be a life-changing event. Of course, there are already cancers that are rightly seen that way, but for too many this remains a dream.
Hence, on World Cancer Day 2018, the third year under the “We Can, I Can” theme, we are reminded that we can’t simply wait for the better future when there is so much to do right now.
ASCO is, of course, a global organization. We are based in the United States but our members, readers of our publications, users of our quality tools, and attendees at our Annual Meeting and thematic symposia hail from all corners of the globe. The patients we serve live in every country on earth. This makes it clear that the science of oncology is universal but the practical realities of prevention and treatment vary widely based on local needs, resources, and circumstances. The daily challenges of science and clinical care require the collective “we” to make the big, bold, creative advances that ultimately transform cancers as a whole, but individual lives around the world are changed one at the time—by the “I,” as each of us interacts with patients, families, providers, and every other stakeholder.
Each one of us may stand before a group of eager learners sharing new knowledge and skills that they, in turn, can apply to their patients. Each one of us may sit at the bedside of a scared or suffering patient and family and offer comfort through empathy and compassion, but also through the application of the most appropriate scientifically informed treatments. The quest to make the entire world better for all of its inhabitants is the one we have taken on individually through our career choices and collectively by collaborating through professional societies, institutions, and many other organizations to study and address all aspects of cancer prevention and treatment.
Daily we dwell among the sick and the worried and try to help them feel better, live better, and thrive, despite their fears and diagnoses. I am proud to share that responsibility and that opportunity with all of our friends and colleagues around the world. With all of our individual (“I”) efforts and the amplifying impact of global collaboration, we will prevail!
World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control and is observed every year on February 4.