Fundamental Science Can Transform Cancer Care Worldwide

World Cancer Day is February 4, and it is an important reminder that cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% in the next two decades. This gives us all the more reason to recognize the progress that has been made because of discoveries by fundamental, or basic, cancer researchers. Our task now is to bring the benefits of that work to patients around the world. Check out this short video where Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, Deputy Director of Winship Cancer Institute discusses these discoveries in fundamental cancer research:

The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day, “Not Beyond Us,” highlights solutions that are within our reach. In that spirit, we celebrate 2014 as a landmark year for cancer research, discovery, treatment and prevention. Important progress was made in a number of areas: screening and prevention of cancers, development of novel targeted therapies for cancers, and immunotherapy of a number of previously resistant diseases. Over the past year, we saw at least a half dozen new approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) of new, improved, potent targeted therapies, chemotherapies, and immunotherapies for cancer, whose impact is most acutely felt in societies in North America, Europe, Eastern Asia, Australia and South America. Our therapeutic resources have been significantly advanced by these discoveries, all of which spring from major biologic breakthroughs in the laboratory. What should the next steps be in ensuring that the powerful tools of genomic medicine, immunology, and molecular imaging continue to flourish and impact cancer patients worldwide? How do we make sure that personalized, precision medicine can be practiced to benefit oncology patients globally?

Fundamental to progress in cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention is continued investment in fundamental cancer research. In a decade in which the growth of real federal funding for basic and translational research in cancer has slowed noticeably in the United States, this challenge has been counterbalanced on some levels by substantial increases in investment in basic and translational research in Asia (China and India in particular), Europe (Germany and Great Britain in particular), and Australia. Nonetheless, research conducted in United States laboratories remains the major driver of cancer discovery in the areas of genomics, immunology, and prevention, and in the translation of these discoveries from the bench to the bedside, aided by accelerated developments in the biotech and pharmaceutical world. On-going support for researchers in the fundamental sciences will ensure that these new discoveries will continue to substantially enhance our therapeutic and preventive arsenal against cancer. Fundamental science is vital to the global war against cancer.

As discoveries accelerate, and increasing numbers of affordable new treatment modalities are brought into the clinic, making an impact on diseases from Africa and Australia, through Asia and Europe, and all the way to the Americas, we must continue to support, guard, and mentor our treasure trove of outstanding scientists and clinical investigators. Over the next several decades, these individuals will be the key to sustaining and accelerating the major advances that are being made against cancer. Discoveries in the labs of outstanding scientists in basic immunology, genomics, glycomics and metabolomics, and in understanding the biologic behavior of normal, pre-malignant, and cancerous cells, pave the way for clinical translations that improve the prevention and therapy of our global population as a whole.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, professor and chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, and executive associate dean for research of Emory University, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

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