Nov 03, 2023
From the first year that Women Who Conquer Cancer (WWCC) launched, Linda Bosserman, MD, FACP, FASCO, has been there, volunteering her time and energy to promote equity for women in oncology.
A program of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, WWCC was founded in 2013 by past ASCO president Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, FASCO, to support the work of women throughout the field of oncology. In addition to her work with WWCC, Dr. Bosserman served on the ASCO Board of Directors, the Clinical Practice Committee, and the Practice Guidelines Implementation Network. She served as an editor and editor-in-chief for JCO Oncology Practice. She is a professor and medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer, sexual health for patients with cancer, value-based care, and international medicine at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she brought more than 28 years of prior experience in private oncology practice. An ASCO member since 1990, she has served on the Public Issues Committee, the Quality Care Symposium Planning Committee, and served as co-chair of ASCO’s Clinical Practice Symposia. Learn more about what drives her commitment to gender parity in cancer care and research.
Why are you passionate about supporting cancer research?
LB: I developed an interest in cancer research early on in my oncology career. I realized how fundamental it was for grants like Conquer Cancer’s Young Investigator Award (YIA) and Career Development Award (CDA) to help ensure early-career clinician scientists can stay in the field of cancer research. Most clinicians finish fellowships or early assistant professor positions at a time when they may have or want to start a family, or when they want to balance their lives with other important life goals. For many women, this can mean balancing fertility issues, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, along with very demanding developmental career work and research. There are so many competing demands that without adequate funding like the Conquer Cancer WWCC YIA and CDA awards, many early-career oncologists feel overwhelmed by the uncertainties. In numerous cases, these researchers leave academic work for full-time practice or industry jobs which provide more financial certainty and flexibility. Conquer Cancer grants and awards are fundamental to building the oncology workforce and accelerating the amazing breakthroughs of the last 45 years I have been in medicine.
Helping to raise funds for Conquer Cancer grants and awards is thus one of my passions—it enables people of diverse backgrounds to follow their dreams and research their ideas to find the next best treatments for all of us.
What makes organizations like Conquer Cancer so important, and what role does Conquer Cancer play in providing research funds?
LB: Conquer Cancer provides several critical pieces in helping to support cancer researchers and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes. We support young physician-scientists with their first grants. Recipients are also paired with mentors who help them to develop in their oncology research.
After those initial grants, which cover pilot studies or work that generates new directions for cancer research, grants like the CDA step in, supporting researchers to expand and refine their clinical studies and establish their research career. Gaining access to mentors, advisors, and grants that help support research early in one’s career allows promising researchers to stay in oncology and change the future for patients.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you see in oncology research and cancer care?
LB: First, it’s critical to find new diagnostic methods that let us improve earlier detection for patients. Equally important is working to find new therapies and manage side effects so patients can maintain as much of a normal life as possible. It’s increasingly important to organize the oncology workforce in ways that doctors can effectively collect and evaluate data, translate that into conversations with patients, share in decision-making to choose the best treatment, manage that treatment effectively, and improve survival beyond cancer. Conquer Cancer, including its WWCC programs, supports researchers and mentors in each of these areas so that we can really provide the diversity of research that will help to improve cancer care for every patient.
What motivated you to get involved with supporting WWCC?
LB: While serving on various ASCO committees, I saw a major need to support early-career clinician scientists in continuing as cancer researchers. In 2013, I was honored to join the WWCC Steering Committee, which I have served on for 10 years. I have hosted and joined WWCC fundraising events to share the opportunity with people nationwide to support the work of clinician scientists. Many women in oncology and cancer research have expanded their studies to focus on not only the whole patient, but also their families. These are a diverse range of researchers, all of whom require funding to further their important work. By leveraging the power of women and networking, we’ve raised more than $8 million in the past decade to expand cancer research and build many new cancer research careers.
What does conquering cancer mean to you?
LB: Conquering cancer is about developing new treatments that can ultimately help to cure cancer. This can involve developing new diagnostic tests that tell us who to treat and what treatments work best for patients with cancer.
It’s also about working to answer questions like: How do we manage treatment-related side effects? How do we take care of patients from prevention and diagnosis all the way through treatment? If a patient experiences recurrence, how do we treat them again for the best outcome? How do we provide care for patients in the long term, whether they are survivors or facing the end of life?
We need to support and mentor researchers in their innovation, networking, and research. This combined effort will help researchers to successfully address each step and share their advances broadly to accelerate cancer care throughout the world. Conquering cancer means that a patient can come in and be confident that they will have a proper diagnosis, access the best treatment for their unique situation, all at an affordable cost so they can move beyond cancer and thrive.