American Cancer Society Statement: Dr. Karen E. Knudsen on Dr. Francis Collins’ Cancer Diagnosis

April 12, 2024

ATLANTA – In light of the recent news regarding Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and his recent prostate cancer diagnosis, the American Cancer Society (ACS) extends its full support as he navigates his cancer journey.

Comment from Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):

We applaud Dr. Collins for being forthcoming about his prostate cancer diagnosis in an effort to bring awareness to this disease. Dr. Collins has made life-changing contributions to improving human health through science and, on behalf of ACS and ACS CAN, I offer our support and well wishes as he begins his cancer treatment.  We look forward to his full recovery and return to his important work. Dr. Collins is a brilliant mind who throughout his career has broken new ground in cancer research. Among the most impactful contributions was his role in the mapping of the human genome under the NIH Human Genome Project, while he was director at the National Human Genome Research Institute. This achievement is considered one of the most life-changing initiatives in the history of biology research.

As NIH director, a number of significant research initiatives were created and implemented. One of the most significant initiatives to cancer is the Cancer Moonshot which has expanded the use of early cancer detection strategies, increased research efforts for childhood cancer, and sped the development of improved immunotherapies. Dr. Collins’ stewardship also saw increases in NIH funding from $29.5 billion to $43 billion during his tenure.

This news is a reminder about the tragic impact of prostate cancer in the US, where about one in eight men will be diagnosed over their lifetime with prostate cancer. Although it is a highly survivable disease when caught in early stages, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Early detection is key, and we are concerned given the 5% year-over-year increase in diagnosis of men with more advanced disease. We can and must do more to prevent late-stage diagnosis and death from prostate cancer. ACS and ACS CAN are increasing our efforts in the progress against prostate cancer and removing barriers to early detection is critical.”

According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures, 2024, an estimated 299,010 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 35,250 men will die from the disease this  year.