October brought two important events for those of us at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC CancerCenter who are committed to eradicating cancer. The Cancer Moonshot initiative overseen by Vice President Joe Biden delivered its final report, endorsing ten specific initiatives that are designed to accomplish ten years of cancer research in only five years. These recommendations ranged from empowering patients to being more active participants in the discovery process to supporting big data to promoting immunotherapy clinical trials to studies of molecular changes in pediatric cancers. The ability to capitalize fully on these recommendations will rest on the allocation of new funding by Congress in the “lame duck” session.
On October 13, 2016, President Obama hosted a day long “Frontiers in Science” meeting at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Among the five scientific tracks was “Precision Medicine” and I was honored to give a “lightning” talk about bringing lab discoveries into the clinic. All in attendance were thrilled to participate in a plenary session which included an address by the self-proclaimed “science nerd,” President Obama, and a panel discussion on precision medicine led by surgeon-medical writer, Atul Gawande, MD, in which the President participated.
We now know that November is a time of tremendous transition for all of us. After many months of acrimonious debate, the presidential election brought the news that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. Although his opposition to the Affordable Care Act is well known, President-Elect Trump has been silent on the importance of biomedical research. It will be incumbent on all of us to educate the new administration about the importance of supporting research to improve human health and the need to ensure access to high quality health care for all.
Locally we are celebrating the inauguration of Lisa Butterfield, PhD, Professor of Medicine, to begin her two-year term as President of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). She follows in the footsteps of two previous SITC Presidents from Pittsburgh: Ronald Herberman, MD, Founding Director of UPCI, and Michael Lotze, MD, Professor of Surgery. There cannot be a more exciting time to step into leadership of an organization that is dedicated to advancing cancer research and care using immune approaches, and we congratulate Dr. Butterfield and wish her well.
Finally, UPCI is undertaking a leadership transition. After nearly eight years of service, I have decided to take a leadership position at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and University of Washington beginning December 1, 2016. UPCI Deputy Director Edward Chu, MD, will step up to serve as Interim Director of UPCI. An expert in cancer therapeutics and gastrointestinal malignancies, Dr. Chu is well equipped to take up this role and we wish him well. The arrival of the new year, a new US President, and new interim leader for UPCI provides the perfect time for all of us to recommit ourselves to our goal of a world without cancer.