Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO
President, American Society of Clinical Oncology
The future has never been more promising for people living with cancer. The first two decades of the 21st century ushered in a revolution in our understanding of cancer, generating precise and targeted treatments while also dramatically improving quality of life for patients.
My organization, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), recently outlined the top cancer achievements over the past year in its annual Clinical Cancer Advances report.
The refinement of surgical approaches to cancer is specifically highlighted. Incorporating new therapies has led to less invasive techniques and minimizing the extent of surgery in many cases. Other recent cancer advances include improvements in prevention, biomarker-driven treatment, and therapy combinations that suggest survival can be extended without increasing side effects.
In my own practice, I witness firsthand the incredible strides being made as a result of cancer research. Just last year, I attended the 65th birthday party of a current patient. She had been diagnosed 10 years earlier with metastatic breast cancer and hadn’t been sure she wanted to move forward with further treatment. With encouragement, she elected to participate in a clinical trial of an investigational drug that is now widely used to treat breast cancer. Here we were, joyfully celebrating with her now-married daughters, their husbands, and three beautiful grandchildren. Such is the importance of clinical trials and promising new therapies.
The road ahead
Stories like this one are becoming more frequent, yet there is still work to do. We need to join together to ensure all patients live longer and live better. This is no small task and will require the efforts and expertise of physicians, nurses, patients, industry, government, academia, and more. I firmly believe that collaboration is the key to advancing therapies and improving the lives of our patients. We often talk about dividing and conquering; I think the oncology world is a place where we must unite and conquer to accelerate progress for all patients. Our partnerships will be crucial to success in better outcomes and opportunities for people with cancer.
Cancer is complex, and finding cures for its many forms is not easy or quick. But as the more than 15 million survivors can attest, and recent progress shows, together we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future.