Working together to end cancer as we know it now

Female doctor consults patient with cancer

Ambitious discussions at a recent scientific cancer summit highlighted where UK-USA collaboration could have transformative impact on cancer outcomes.

A group of world-leading cancer researchers, clinicians, patient advocates and industry representatives from both countries interrogated six key themes at the summit between 13 and 14 November 2021.

Together they identified long and short-term scientific challenges, as well as ideas about barriers to progress and how to resolve them.

Though the details will be further refined over the coming months, the themes cover:

  • developing ways to prevent cancer
  • making cancer detection earlier, faster and cheaper
  • overcoming racial and socio-economic disparities in diagnosis and outcomes
  • learning more from every patient in our health systems and those on clinical trials
  • developing new and different treatments that drive overall survival improvements
  • understanding how tumours occur in the absence of clear mutations.

Committed to action

The summit was opened by:

  • Professor Sir Patrick Vallance, UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser
  • Professor Eric Lander, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to the US President Jo Biden.

They both highlighted:

  • the important role the two countries coming together could play in “ending cancer as we know it now”
  • the commitment the leaders of both countries place on achieving this.

Complementary strengths

In his opening address Sir Patrick Vallance said:

I hope this meeting starts a real opportunity for something new, important and will have an impact both across knowledge and the application of that knowledge.

Encouraging attendees to work together, Professor Lander said:

Our collective goal is to identify opportunities for collaboration wherever we can make a major difference to prevent and detect cancer, and to help people living with a cancer diagnosis.

This summit will help define a priority agenda that addresses those areas where patients and caregivers have stressed we need to make progress.

Common challenges and opportunities

Across the six themes, attendees identified common challenges and opportunities that they agreed, if addressed, could make real progress. These included:

  • scientific, legislative, regulatory, policy and healthcare delivery challenges
  • attracting a diverse group of scientists into the field of cancer research
    and providing suitable support and training
  • including patients within setting priorities and design and development of studies
  • increasing opportunities for industry-academic collaboration and public-private partnerships.

Jim Elliott is an advocate for Patients in Health Research who attended the summit. Commenting on the discussions he said:

I was impressed there was a clear focus on ensuring that each topic was grounded in what is important to cancer patients, their families and to the wider public in terms of ways to prevent cancers.

Speeding up cancer research advances

The summit was organised by the Medical Research Council in partnership with:

  • Cancer Research UK
  • US National Cancer Institute.

The scientific meeting was a step towards a shared UK-US plan for action.

In the new year, the organisers will carry out targeted engagement with the broader cancer community and with respective government offices around key recommendations from the scientific summit.

A follow-up leaders’ summit is expected to be held in spring or summer 2022.

Top image:  Credit: FatCamera, Getty Images

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