Under the leadership of its Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee (Chair: George D. Demetri, MD), the AACR worked with the medical research community in 2019 to make the case to legislators for robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for medical research. These efforts yielded results in December, when Congress approved a $2.6 billion FY 2020 budget increase for the NIH—including a $297 million increase for the NCI and a $91 million increase for the FDA. The FY 2020 budget marked the fifth consecutive year of significant funding increases for the NIH, resulting in a 39 percent increase in the agency’s budget since FY 2016.
The mission of the AACR Tobacco Products and Cancer Subcommittee is to foster scientific and policy initiatives to reduce the incidence of disease and mortality due to tobacco use. In 2019, the subcommittee provided expert comments to the FDA on proposed regulations to reduce the use of e-cigarettes by youth and young adults, to designate tobacco use in electronic health records, and to require graphic warnings for cigarette packages and advertisements.
In June, the subcommittee also hosted a congressional briefing on “E-cigarettes and Nicotine Addiction: A Potential Public Health Crisis for Youth and Young Adults.” Cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), the briefing included subject matter experts from the FDA, NCI, CDC and Yale Cancer Center who addressed the dangers of increased e-cigarette use among youth and young adults in the United States.
The AACR Health Policy Subcommittee promotes policies and develops educational initiatives that foster the closer integration of clinical practice and cancer research. In June, the subcommittee collaborated with the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Biden Cancer Initiative to co-host a congressional briefing titled “Let’s End HPV-Related Cancers.” The briefing— was sponsored by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)—was also developed in partnership with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Association of American Cancer Institutes, Prevent Cancer Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Union for International Cancer Control. It discussed the latest interventions against HPV-related cancers and outlined a path toward elimination of these cancers.
The AACR Regulatory Science and Policy Subcommittee develops and implements programs and policy initiatives to improve the development, evaluation, and regulation of cancer drugs, biologics, and devices. The subcommittee worked with stakeholders in academia, industry, advocacy, and government to host two critical meetings in 2019:
Recognizing the critical need to educate cancer researchers and other health care professionals about science policy and regulatory issues, the AACR developed an expanded track of 16 science policy and regulatory science and policy sessions at the AACR Annual Meeting in April. The track covered a wide range of topics, including the use of science to inform e-cigarette policy, the impact of Brexit on oncology drug development and regulation, and the impact of China’s expanding role as both a developer of and a market for cancer pharmaceuticals. Among the most popular sessions was “PD-1 Pandemonium: FDA Speaks with Industry on the Past, Present, and Future of PD-1 Drugs.” In the session, Oncology Center of Excellence Director Richard Pazdur, MD, moderated a panel discussion with industry experts that addressed the challenges and opportunities pertaining to the development of PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapeutics.
In addition to sustaining the cancer workforce through science education and career development, the AACR took steps in 2019 to build the science policy and advocacy workforce with the launch of its Science Policy Fellows program. The program enables early-career cancer researchers—like J. Tod Guidry, PhD, the inaugural policy fellow—to work on significant science and health policy issues, key regulatory science and policy topics, and important matters of interest to those on Capitol Hill, while working in various offices and agencies in Washington, DC.
The AACR’s scientific programs and initiatives bring together scientists, clinicians, and other health care professionals and focus their efforts on improving the lives of cancer patients. Through its Survivor and Patient Advocacy Program, the AACR also brings patients into the community of cancer professionals, educating them about the science behind cancer research and treatment and empowering them to inform that process by sharing their perspectives.
The AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program (SSP) builds enduring partnerships among leaders of the scientific, survivor, and patient advocacy communities by bringing them together at AACR scientific meetings to share the latest innovative cancer science. Survivors and advocates attend focused lectures and scientific sessions with scientist mentors, fostering an exchange in which patients and advocates learn about the biology behind treatment decisions and scientists better understand the impact their work has on the patient experience. More than 60 patient advocates participated in the program at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019 in Atlanta and at the Twelfth AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved in San Francisco.
As part of the dialogue between cancer professionals and patients, the Survivor and Patient Advocacy program worked with meeting organizers to place patient- and advocate-focused sessions on the programs of three AACR meetings in 2019:
Cancer Today—the AACR’s magazine and website for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers—is a vital resource for anyone navigating the challenges of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survival. Now in its eighth full year of publication, the magazine continues to tackle important cancer topics in a serious, comprehensive way. Among the most read stories published in 2019 were the following:
Nancy F. Goodman, JD
Founder and Executive Director, Kids v Cancer
Ms. Goodman founded Kids v Cancer in 2009, after her 10-year-old son, Jacob, died from medulloblastoma. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to promote pediatric cancer research by identifying policy impediments at key junctures in the research process and developing strategies to address them. She received the Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership in cancer science policy and advocacy, including her exceptional stewardship of two significant federal laws that are providing pediatric cancer patients with additional treatment options.
Louis M. Weiner, MD
Director, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Associate Vice President, Georgetown University Medical Center
Dr. Weiner has dedicated his research career to developing and optimizing monoclonal antibody–based immunotherapies. As inaugural Chair of both the AACR Cancer Immunology Task Force and the AACR Cancer Immunology Working Group, he worked to establish cancer immunology as a scientific priority for the organization. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award in honor of his extraordinary research career and contributions to establishing the AACR at the forefront of cancer immunology
Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, FAACR
Physician-in-Chief and Distinguished Professor, Translational Genomics Research Institute
Chief Scientific Officer, Honor Health Research Institute
Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic and University of Arizona College of Medicine
Dr. Von Hoff’s cutting-edge research has contributed to the development of more than a dozen FDA-approved agents that are routinely used in the treatment of cancer—including the first combination therapy to demonstrate improved response rates, overall survival, and progression-free survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Von Hoff has also provided visionary leadership to the field of clinical cancer research. Notably, in 1996 he established the AACR-ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop, which has trained more than 4,000 clinical fellows and junior faculty clinical researchers around the world in the essentials of novel oncology clinical trial designs. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award for his extraordinary contributions to clinical cancer research and the training of early-career clinical investigators.