Converting Discovery and Technology Advances into Clinical Impact
Medical advances have contributed to a near doubling of life expectancy over the past century and will produce more than 1 billion individuals over age 60 worldwide. However, this monumental achievement has also fueled dramatic increases in the incidence of diseases such as cancer.
As a father to three teenagers, a son whose father lost his battle with cancer, and a physician-scientist specializing in cancer research, the facts about cancer deeply trouble me. Cancer will claim 100 million lives worldwide over the next 10 years. One in two men and one in three women will face cancer in their lifetime. Seventy percent of cancers occur in low- and middle- income countries, and an overwhelming majority of these populations do not have access to advanced cancer care. The economic impact of cancer will exceed $3 trillion annually while the social and emotional toll on patients and their families are incalculable.
My life’s work has been focused on understanding the core molecular pathway for aging, the determination of the basis for the intimate link between advancing age and increased cancer incidence and the demonstration that aging can be reversed. Age is the greatest risk factor for developing cancer. We lose people to cancer every day and, as the problem accelerates with an aging population, we must act with urgency. Patients are counting on us.
To impact the problem, we must recognize that discovery is not enough, and technology is not enough. We need to convert these advances into clinical impact in the way that really helps patients in the form of new prevention policies, early detection methods such as inexpensive blood tests and curative therapies for everyone, everywhere. And the solution for these grand challenges will come from knowledge, science-driven policy, innovation and collaboration.
Latest Discoveries in Cancer & Aging
Investing in good science and emerging therapies to reduce cancer is also vitally important. In fact, over 80 percent of the gains in life expectancy for cancer patients have been attributable to new treatments. According to researchers at The University of Chicago, if more investments were made into emerging therapies to reduce cancer, a 10 percent reduction in cancer-related deaths in the U.S. could produce an estimated $4.4 trillion in savings to current and future generations. The need for more investments in innovation is clear so we can reduce the devastating burden of cancer on individuals and their loved ones.
Equally, there is a need to invest in people. People are an organization’s most valued asset to ensure future generations of leadership in the field of science. It is vital to raise the standards of graduate education programs by investing in faculty who embrace training the next generation of leaders, by creating new curriculum to foster independent innovative thinking, and by providing basic science training focused on illuminating new cancer mechanisms that are informing new prevention and treatment approaches. The next generation of physician scientists must also gain practical experience in management, finance, communication, and social skills in order to enhance their effectiveness in their careers.