Annual Meeting Keynote Urges Vigilance on Cancer Research Funding

Keynote speaker Stan Collender, a longtime federal budget analyst, sounded an urgent call to action as he opened the 2017 AACI Annual Meeting.

“The budget situation going on right now is a dagger pointed directly at federal support for cancer research,” he told the gathering of cancer center leaders in the nation’s capital. “As much as members of Congress might like to continue their support, and given their druthers they will, you’ve got to keep in mind that this cannot be the last time you come to Washington.”

Citing persistent increases in defense spending, pressing infrastructure needs, and a ballooning federal deficit, Mr. Collender warned that cancer researchers face an annual fight for federal funding for at least the next decade.

“It’s going to require constant vigilance from you and your colleagues to keep this situation from getting out of hand,” he said, noting that the cancer research community has a powerful tool at its disposal: patients.

“You have access to the biggest grassroots political network in the county—people who have cancer, who know someone who has cancer, or who are worried about getting cancer,” Mr. Collender said. He urged meeting attendees to “activate this network to create massive support” for federal support of cancer research.

The meeting convened more than 360 AACI cancer center directors and executive-level administrators with leaders of national cancer research and advocacy groups, industry, and government health agencies to develop solutions to common challenges and to share best practices. Meeting attendance has grown by nearly 48 percent since 2011.

AACI Executive Director Barbara Duffy Stewart, MPH, acknowledged program and activity support this past year from 14 industry supporters: Amgen, Astellas, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Complion, Forte Research Systems, Foundation Medicine, Genentech, Gilead, Janssen Research & Development, Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Takeda Oncology, and Velos.

The AACI Annual Meeting Program Committee, chaired by Karen E. Knudsen, PhD, director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia, assembled an outstanding array of speakers. Panel discussion topics included immunotherapy, clinical trials, precision medicine, cancer disparities, and the impact of Washington’s new political landscape on financing cancer care.

Also featured was an update on AACI’s Network Care Initiative, presented by AACI President Stanton Gerson, MD, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. Following his presentation, Dr. Gerson moderated a panel discussion on managing cancer center networks.