ATLANTA, GA— September 30, 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic has largely uprooted cancer research with cancelled and delayed clinical research trials. This impact has not only slowed research pivotal to finding a cure and improving treatment and care but potentially reversing the immense progress that has been made – threatening the welfare of cancer patients today and into the future.
Dr. Monica Buchanan, Senior Medical Science Liaison at GRAIL, spoke to the policy needed to address these setbacks and support future discoveries during ACS CAN’s policy forum, Cancer Research.
"Despite decades of investment, cancer is still projected to become the world's leading killer by 2021. There's still plenty of work to be done and we still need to have plenty of resources — particularly in our current economic environment — to be able to continue with that research,” noted Buchannan, emphasizing the need for federal funding to continue and increase in light of the pandemic’s impact on clinical research trials.
The forum also highlighted recent progress by leading Georgia hospitals and a focus on what areas cancer research can have the most promising impact.
" If we were able to detect more cancers in early stage disease, finding it before people start showing symptoms, we could improve patient outcomes for this cancer. Right now, 71% of all cancer deaths are for cancer that are not screened for. In fact, only 5% are for cancers out there today are regularly screened for in people without symptoms. Finding a way to identify all of those other cancers is really the most pressing, unmet need in early cancer detection today,” added Dr. Buchanan.
Panelists also brought attention to the critical support legislation could provide in tackling another issue within cancer research – a lack of representation in trials due to barriers to care. The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act would ensure health equity in clinical research trials by requiring an analysis of current policies in cancer clinical trials that directly impact participation rates for underrepresented groups.
"About 80 to 95% of our patients are African-Americans so access becomes a real big component with respect to balancing out those inequities,” shared Dr. Eric Flenaugh, a pulmonologist at Grady Health System and professor at Morehouse College. “We have to focus on where exactly those problems are and target our research efforts towards those inequities with specific goals on how to overcome them."
Other special guests included Pooja Mishra, Director of Cancer Center at Grady Hospital; Alicia Harrison, Supervisor Oncology Patient Navigator and Radiation Oncology Nurse with Northwest Georgia Health Systems; Dr. Joanna Wardwell-Ozgo, American Cancer Society researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine; and Rev. Jill Henning, triple negative breast cancer survivor and Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership and Administration for the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The event was held virtually and sponsored by Foundation Medicine, GRAIL, Grady Health System, PhRMA, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Amgen, Janssen Oncology, Takeda, GRI-Alleset, Genentech and Pfizer.
About ACS CAN
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.