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AACR Annual Meeting 2017: Bringing Science to Life

You don’t have to be a scientist to deepen your knowledge at the preeminent meeting for cancer researchers. By Marci A. Landsmann

More than 20,000 attendees—including researchers, patient advocates and government officials—will gather in Washington, D.C., April 1-5 for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2017.

As scientists rush from session to session in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to learn about the latest research findings, major sessions at the Annual Meeting will focus on health-related policy issues. Other sessions will be geared toward the public or patient advocates.

Public policy. A highlight of the extensive public policy program will be an appearance April 3 by former Vice President Joe Biden, who will speak at the start of a panel discussion on the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot, part of the 21st Century Cures Act passed in December 2016 to speed up cancer discovery and increase scientific collaboration. Panelists will include Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao; actress Fran Drescher, founder of Cancer Schmancer; and AACR President-Elect Michael A. Caligiuri. Nancy E. Davidson, AACR President, will moderate the panel discussion. The session will be held between 1 and 3 p.m. and webcast live.

Free community event: To kick off the Annual Meeting, the AACR will host a community education event April 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Washington, 1100 H Street NW. The program will bring together experts to focus on three areas: improvements in patient care, advances in precision medicine and immunotherapy, and prevention and early detection. This event will be broadcast via Facebook Live between 9:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

“The topics chosen for this year’s Progress and Promise Against Cancer community event personify questions that are top-of-mind for many people facing a cancer diagnosis today,” said AACR President-Elect Michael A. Caligiuri on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official AACR blog. Caligiuri, director of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus, will emcee the public event. “We hope that at the program’s conclusion, each person walks away with a better understanding of what’s happening in the world of cancer research and how they may incorporate this information into their lives.”

Advocacy. The AACR will continue the Scientist↔Survivor Program (SSP), now in its 19th year, which brings together cancer researchers, survivors and advocates to learn from one another. For this year’s program, 26 advocates will take a crash course in cancer science. During the five-day meeting, advocates will attend education sessions and have access to the proceedings of the entire Annual Meeting. They will also present posters about their own areas of interest alongside more than 6,000 cancer researchers who will be presenting their posters as part of the scientific symposium. Groups of advocates are paired with a scientist and a seasoned advocate mentor who helps them navigate through the meeting.

Lori Marx-Rubiner, a metastatic breast cancer survivor and advocate, will be a mentor for the first time this year. She has attended SSP as an advocate for the past two years and can attest to the program’s effectiveness. She says her participation in the program gave her opportunities to help shape clinical trial designs for two researchers she met through her contacts there.

“There’s a certain status to SSP within the conference that opens doors,” says Marx-Rubiner, who lives in Los Angeles. When you go to a poster sessions or you ask a question after an oral presentation [during the scientific sessions], you can capture attention in a way that you can’t necessarily if you are not there within the scope of the SSP and you don’t yet have a reputation as an advocate. It’s really an extraordinary opportunity.”

Advocates also learn from each other, which cannot be underestimated, she says.

“Understanding how prostate cancer advocates or lung cancer advocates are working within their communities and what their issues are and where their challenges lie is also a real opportunity to expand horizons,” she says.  “In a time where we are looking at personalized medicine that focuses less on disease of origin and more on specific mutations, those connections are invaluable learning tools that allow us to all benefit from one another.”
MARCI A. LANDSMANN is the senior editor of Cancer Today.


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