The New Year

The New Year

George W. Sledge, MD, FASCO

Jan 06, 2011

Well, I’m back to blogging after a short break for the holidays. I trust that you all had as fine a time as I did. I actually spent three weeks at home; the longest stretch since I assumed our Society’s presidency last June. My three sons were all back—always a pleasure—and I caught up on my reading and relaxed a bit.

Now I am back on the road. I write this on the way home from New York, where I had the opportunity to visit the NYU Cancer Institute yesterday. I’m always impressed, as I travel around, how our organization touches the lives of our members, and in how many different ways. Those who I spoke with are concerned about federal funding of cancer research and about the future of the cooperative groups. I also heard how much good we do for our young members involved in clinical/translational research. Sylvia Adams, MD, a bright young breast cancer researcher interested in tumor immunology, has received both a Young Investigator Award (2003) and a Career Development Award (2004) from ASCO, and she told me that these awards represented a vital part of her progress towards a career as a productive, independent investigator.

The New Year will bring some changes to our profession. It has brought in a new Congress, with a Republican majority in the House and a weaker Democratic majority in the Senate. The House Republicans would dearly like to repeal last year’s health care legislation (unlikely), or at least clip its wings before it flies very far. Last year’s Congress failed (again!) to fix the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for physician payments, delaying the ultimate day of reckoning. ASCO will be watching this closely, as congressional volatility on health care certainly has the potential to affect how we care for our patients.

We’ll also watch the new Congress’s views on cancer research. Both sides of the aisle traditionally have supported cancer research, and there has been a broad societal consensus that cancer research is a public good. But this is not a universal belief—there are those who feel that cancer research, particularly clinical cancer research, is best conducted predominantly or entirely in the private sphere. ASCO continues to believe that a public/private partnership is the best way forward, that the public good requires a strong cooperative group system answering important public health questions, and that cutting-edge clinical/translational science can be performed in the cooperative groups and cancer centers.

It being the New Year, it is time for New Year’s resolutions. Mine typically revolve around burning off the excess calories consumed during the food orgy occurring between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. That usually carries me through April or May. Anyways, a happy New Year to all of you.


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