When I give a talk about cancer research, I like to highlight both the diversity of cancer research and that it is a continuum. One way to do this is by showing a scale that, going from smallest to largest, includes cancer research focused at the level of molecules, cells, tissues, organs, patients, clinical trials, cohorts, and communities. Much cancer research spans various points on this scale. I can take any two points on this scale, and talk about an important research project at Holden based on those two points. For example, molecular epidemiology involves taking samples from a large number of individuals in a group of cancer patients and evaluating them at the molecular level in order to improve our ability to predict how specific changes in genes might impact an outcome. Identifying new cancer drugs requires we screen large numbers of compounds to see which have the most promising effects on cancer cells, then after appropriate testing in the laboratory, assess the effects of these new drugs on patients in a clinical trial. Continue reading
Last week, I had the honor beginning a 2-year term as President of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). Instead of writing a separate blog this week, I am copying an editorial that appeared in The Cancer Letter describing a new initiative of the AACI that goes by the name of “The Academic Difference.”
This is reprinted with permission from The Cancer Letter.
Earlier this week, I had the honor of attending the 127th annual meeting of the American Clinical and Climatological Association in Tucson, Arizona as a new member. This organization was founded by a group of leading physicians who were interested in advancing patient care with a particular focus on the impact of climate on health (hence the name of the organization). Much of their effort was geared towards tuberculosis which was a scourge of the times and was treated at the time by placing patients in sanatoria where they could be exposed to fresh air and sunshine.
Recently, I signed on to Facebook and found that my daughter had tagged me in a picture she took of me relaxing at home slouched on the couch holding a glass of wine. It was nothing scandalous, and I don’t mind that my daughter posted it.
On the other hand, it made me bit uncomfortable to think of that picture being available for the whole world to see. I therefore untagged myself. (For the sake of staying focused on the topic at hand, I am skipping the part about how difficult it was for me to figure out how to remove my name from that picture.) When it comes to Facebook, my daughter and I have different perspectives on privacy.
I just watched a rerun of “the office.” On this show, as on TV and in the movies in general, administrators and supervisors are often portrayed as ignorant buffoons who have no idea what they are doing. True confession – there have been times when I have felt that way about those above me on the organizational ladder. I also understand why others might feel that way about me as a supervisor, particularly when they present me with a multidimensional problem that seems to have no good solution.
On the other hand, there are times as an administrator when the answer is clear immediately. My favorite example, and one that I am privileged to experience often in my current role, is when asked for something by someone who I know is very careful about what they ask for, and has a track record of success when given the support they request. This describes many of my colleagues at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. When I receive requests from such colleagues, I don’t ask myself “why should I say Yes” Instead, I ask myself “why would I say No.” On occasion, lack of resources has limited my ability to give a positive response. However, that is the exception and not the rule. Almost without exception, when I say “yes” to such requests, I have not been disappointed.
During the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin highlighted the importance of the colonies working together by saying “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” This quote came to mind this past week when I was in Washington, D.C., for the Rally for Medical Research.
On September 16, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will release its 2014 Cancer Progress Report. Once it is released, a copy of the report can be found on line at www.aacr.org. I had the privilege of again serving on the AACR Progress Report Steering Committee this year. It was exciting to summarize our progress. Highlights described in the report include the increasing number of people living with, through and beyond cancer; the approval by the FDA of 6 new cancer treatments based on proof they are effective; and advances in cancer prevention and screening. I will be joining a number of my colleagues in Washington, DC, on September 17 and 18 to highlight the report and advocate for biomedical research. In addition, I will be participating in a Twitter chat at 12 p.m. Central time on September 16 to discuss the report. You can follow along using the hashtags #CancerProgress14 and #abcDrBchat or by following our Twitter account, @UIowaCancer. Please join us as we twitter away – cancer progress.
I was at a cancer research meeting out of town recently, and three men walked into the hotel conference room just before our session was about to start. They picked up donuts and coffee at the back of the room before heading toward some open seats. However, they seemed ill at ease as soon as they looked around the room. Very quickly, they turned around and left (but in their hurry to get out of the room, kept the donuts).
My three offspring have each chosen their own path in life.
Aaron, my older son, is a stage actor. Miriam, my daughter, is in her last year of medical school here at the University of Iowa. Nathan, my younger son, is a wild land fire fighter working on a helicopter fire attack crew in Idaho.***
My wife and I continue to do our best to support each of our children as they find their own path. This includes providing guidance and support for the day-to-day challenges and decisions they face, as well as helping them think about the long-term and how they can best reach the goals they have set for themselves.
In September 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” In December 1971, Richard Nixon said we are “totally committed to provide the funds that are necessary, whatever is necessary, for the conquest of cancer.”
To state the obvious, we have succeeded in going to the moon, but not in conquering cancer. Indeed, just about everyone involved in cancer care or cancer research has been asked the following question, “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we cure cancer?”