By Nancy E.Davidson, M.D.
good news in the fight against cancer this year when the American Cancer
Society announced a dramatic decrease in cancer deaths over the last two
decades. The 20 percent drop since 1991 represents the dogged work by cancer
researchers across the country, whose efforts have led to important advances in
our quest to understand and treat these very complicated diseases. Because
that’s what makes cancer so difficult: It’s not just one illness with a
|Nancy E. Davidson, M.D.|
advancements have given us great promise about our ability to develop and
practice evidence-based “precision” or “personalized” medicine – care that is
defined by better understanding of the unique attributes of each cancer and
each host. But these advances come at a difficult time of constrained
resources. Federal funding for biomedical research is on the decline, putting
this vibrant part of our economy at risk at a time of great opportunity that
should not be squandered.
Much of the
work that we do here at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) is
realized through the support of federal grants. In fiscal year 2011, the most
recent year for which statistics are available, our investigators received more
than $48 million from the National Cancer Institute alone. These grants are
enabling our researchers to embark on important scientific work that has the
promise to help save lives. Among the research under way is the work of
Shivendra Singh, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and
associate director of Basic Science at UPCI, who is studying the use of dietary
constituents to prevent cancer in preclinical models of prostate cancer with
the hope that these findings can be translated into early phase clinical
trials. Walter Storkus, Ph.D., a professor of Dermatology and Immunology, is
focusing his work on combinatorial immunotherapy for melanoma. While Lin Zhang,Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, is looking at
the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents in colon cancer
prevention and Thomas Kensler, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Chemical
Biology, wants to understand the role of Nrf2 in cancer chemoprevention.
Another researcher, Patrick Moore, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and
Molecular Genetics, has secured a grant that will advance our knowledge about
biomarkers for the Merkel cell virus, one of the seven viruses known to cause
cancer in humans (and a virus that Dr. Moore co-discovered with his colleague,
Yuan Chang, M.D.)
we’re facing funding challenges that could slow the pace of our important work.
That’s why UPCI is proud to support the Rally for Medical Research, taking place today in Washington, D.C., in
conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer
Research. The rally will bring together cancer advocates, survivors, clinicians, researchers and others on the steps of the Carnegie Library to raise awareness
among the public and policymakers of the importance of funding from the
National Institutes of Health. This funding is critical for researchers like us
at UPCI in the fight to save lives.
We are at a
time of most extraordinary discovery about what makes cancers tick and how
we can use this knowledge to overcome cancer. And to do this, resources matter.
Maintaining our momentum is absolutely critical and the ability to fund the
most promising new ideas from our researchers and clinicians is vital. For this
reason, we must continue to receive support from the federal government if
truly all of us are committed to our vision of a future without cancer.
Nancy E. Davidson is the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC CancerCenter.