Mariah Forster Olson, an ACS CAN Ambassador Constituent Team Lead (ACT Lead), traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to share her story as a childhood cancer survivor and to advocate on behalf of other patients and survivors during the 2019 Childhood Cancer Action Days.
NCI Director Leaves Legacy of Progress and Innovation
I was saddened to learn late last week that Dr. Harold Varmus will step down as director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the end of the month. His leadership at the institute over the past five years has paved major inroads in the fight against cancer, despite one of the most difficult budget climates in the institute's history. Throughout his tenure, NCI suffered budget cuts, endured one government shutdown and threats of several more and is still reeling from the effects of sequestration and budget caps that have forced the institute to scale back or even halt promising cancer research. Yet, through it all Dr. Varmus was able to establish two new centers one for global health and one for cancer genomics and innovate the clinical trials programs. Dr. Varmus has overseen the advancement of many targeted therapies and the near completion of the Cancer Genome Atlas, a collaborative database that will accelerate our understanding of how genetics play a role in the cancer journey. He has always been forward thinking, including his work to innovate the Provocative Questions Initiative to identify potentially promising approaches to cancer research. Throughout his career, Dr. Varmus has been a staunch advocate for more funding for cancer research, testifying in front of Congress and participating in efforts by patient and research groups like ours to highlight the importance of research to patients, families and survivors. Most recently, Dr. Varmus joined the Once Voice Against Cancer Coalition to brief members of Congress and their staff about the promising cancer research that would be possible if recommended funding was available in FY 16. Despite the tough budget climate, ACS CAN volunteers have continued to urge lawmakers to prioritize the fight against cancer by dedicating funding for promising research. The constant drumbeat has not only staved off larger cuts, but led to new commitments to research most recently in the form of the president's Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort to advance our understanding of the causes of and potential therapies for cancer. Dr. Varmus' exemplary leadership and vision have undoubtedly helped our nation make progress in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer, a disease that will kill nearly 590,000 people in America this year. On behalf of ACS CAN and the millions of American affected by cancer, I commend Dr. Varmus on his commitment and leadership in the fight against cancer, and wish him well on his next adventure as he heads home to New York.