2018 Annual Report

Science Policy and Government Affairs

AACR associate members gathered in Washington in February for the third annual AACR Early-Career Investigator Hill Day.
The AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs is an authoritative source of information for policy makers and regulators about the critical value of cancer research. In 2018, the AACR was a powerful voice for the cancer research community, advocating for investments in cancer research; supporting evidence-based policies that advance cancer research, prevention, and treatment; and providing expert guidance based upon the best available science.


The AACR led efforts to make public health a continued national priority in 2018, working with individuals and organizations in the broader medical research community to advocate for robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for medical research. These efforts resulted in a $2 billion FY2019 budget increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $179 million of which is directed to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The AACR also successfully advocated for $20 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Oncology Center of Excellence in the FY19 draft funding bills.

  • AACR Cancer Progress Report 2018: Harnessing Research Discoveries for Patient Benefit. The keystone of AACR’s advocacy efforts is the AACR Cancer Progress Report. In September, the AACR presented the eighth annual report to members of Congress and their staffers at a briefing on Capitol Hill. AACR President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR, and Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc) joined cancer survivors and leading experts to highlight the benefits of federally funded cancer research, from supporting advances like CAR-T immunotherapy to reducing cancer health disparities. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a leukemia survivor whose story was included in the report, was a featured speaker at the briefing.
  • Rally for Medical Research Hill Day. As the founding organizer of the Rally for Medical Research, the AACR worked with 350 partnering organizations to organize the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day, bringing hundreds of advocates from across the country to Capitol Hill in September to advocate for making NIH funding a national priority. The associated Rally for Medical Research National Day of Action enabled individuals across the country to participate by contacting their legislators directly and posting social media messages in support of sustained increases to the NIH budget.
  • 2018 Capitol Hill Days. In addition to the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day, the AACR provided two other opportunities in 2018 for researchers, physician-scientists, cancer survivors, and advocates to present the case for federal investment in cancer research. In February, the AACR brought 15 associate members to Washington for the third annual AACR Early-Career Investigator Hill Day. The early-career scientists completed over 30 visits to House and Senate offices, where they had the opportunity to discuss the importance of federal funding in sustaining and expanding the cancer research workforce. In April, the AACR continued its annual partnership with the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) to bring stakeholders from across the cancer community to Capitol Hill, including directors and representatives from the 70 NCI-designated cancer centers. The participants in the 2018 AACR-AACI Hill Day provided insights on the impact of cancer research funding to congressional offices, including those of leading members in the House and Senate.

Educating, Advocating, and Advising on Fundamental Cancer Health Policy Issues

As a trusted source of cancer information, the AACR engages lawmakers and government agencies in discussions of science-based policies that can accelerate progress in the prevention and cure of all cancers.

  • E-Cigarettes: The State of the Science and Reducing Youth Uptake. In July, the AACR held a congressional briefing about the growing incidence of e-cigarette use among youths. Cosponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), the briefing addressed the state of the science around e-cigarettes, recent research on the use, sale, and marketing of e-cigarettes, and potential policy solutions. Participants discussed options for halting youth vaping, balanced against the need for research to determine the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid. [For a summary and video of the complete briefing, visit the AACR blog, Cancer Research Catalyst.]
  • Advocating for the Elimination of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). In June, the AACR joined five other national cancer organizations and all 70 NCI-designated cancer centers in issuing a Consensus Statement urging increased HPV vaccination rates and screening measures to achieve the goal of eliminating HPV-related cancers.
  • Providing Expert Recommendations to Policy Makers and Regulators. Throughout 2018, the AACR worked with legislators to provide expert comments on draft legislation and provided guidance to regulators by attending public hearings and submitting public comments. The AACR provided guidance to the FDA on five occasions, informing the discussion of the regulation of e-cigarettes and tobacco products as well as the structure and function of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence.

Fostering Dialogue Between Regulators and the Cancer Research Community

To accelerate progress against cancer, the AACR promotes engagement between the cancer research community and federal regulators. The Regulatory Science and Policy track at the AACR Annual Meeting 2018—which included 10 sessions on a large range of topics, including pediatric cancer drug development, real-world evidence, and CAR-T therapies for solid tumors—was a major component of this effort. In addition, the AACR partnered with the FDA to host three workshops on cutting-edge issues in cancer regulatory science in 2018. These workshops brought together leading experts from industry and academia along with regulators from the FDA to discuss challenges and opportunities for advancement in critical areas:

  • FDA-AACR-ASTRO Clinical Development of Drug-Radiotherapy Combinations Workshop. In the era of precision medicine, the combination of radiation and targeted therapy holds potential for the treatment of many cancers. However, little progress has been made toward developing specific drug-radiotherapy combinations. In February, the AACR partnered with the FDA and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) to convene a two-day workshop on the topic, bringing stakeholders together to discuss the problem and devise a path forward. The outcomes of the workshop were summarized in an article published in the AACR journal Clinical Cancer Research.
  • FDA-AACR-SGO Drug Development for Gynecologic Malignancies Workshop. The development of new treatments for cancers of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vulva is vital to reduce mortality rates for these diseases. In June, the AACR worked with the FDA and the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) to organize this workshop, creating a forum for open discussion among stakeholders on the way forward for the diagnosis and treatment of both common and rare gynecologic cancers. Presenters at the workshop highlighted the unique molecular characteristics of rare gynecologic cancers that can serve as effective therapeutic targets.
  • FDA-AACR Nonclinical Models for Safety Assessment of Immuno-oncology Products Workshop. In September, the AACR joined the NCI and the FDA to host a workshop to address the scientific and practical aspects of developing models for the study of immuno-oncology products. Participants discussed current challenges and opportunities in the use of nonclinical models to predict toxicities of immune checkpoint inhibitors and stimulators in patients.

Survivor and Patient Advocacy

Participants in the AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program at the AACR Annual Meeting. The AACR celebrated the 20th anniversary of the program in 2018.
The AACR is the authoritative voice of cancer research, using meetings, publications, and other programs to disseminate breakthrough discoveries made by scientists and clinicians. Equally important, the AACR’s Survivor and Patient Advocacy programs give a voice to cancer patients, providing forums that empower patients to tell their stories and share their perspectives with the cancer research community.

Scientist↔Survivor Program

The cornerstone of the AACR’s survivor and patient advocacy efforts is the Scientist↔Survivor Program (SSP), which brings patient advocates together with scientists and clinicians to attend sessions at AACR scientific meetings. Participants attend sessions with their AACR scientist mentors, gaining an understanding of the innovative science behind treatment decisions while providing their counterparts with vital patient perspectives.

In 2018, the AACR celebrated the 20th anniversary of the SSP—the longest-running survivor program in the cancer research community. This milestone was commemorated during the opening ceremony of the AACR Annual Meeting 2018 with a video highlighting the history of the program and charting its future direction. In addition, Anna D. Barker, PhD (far right)—who founded the Scientist↔Survivor Program with AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc)—was presented with the AACR Distinguished Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Science Policy and Advocacy in recognition of her two decades of dedication to patient advocates through this remarkable and impactful program. During the life of this program, more than 500 advocates from all over the world have participated in this educational experience.

Nearly 40 patient advocates participated in the SSP in 2018, joining scientist and clinician mentors at the AACR Annual Meeting in April and the Science of Cancer Health Disparities conference in November. Annual Meeting program participants included patient advocates from Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, and Canada. During the Annual Meeting, two AACR members were named Emeritus Mentors in recognition of their long-standing commitment to the SSP. The advocates thanked Peter Kuhn, PhD, and Christopher Kissinger, PhD, for sharing their time and expertise with program participants for more than three years.

Cancer Today Magazine

Cancer Today—the AACR’s magazine for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers—provides vital information for anyone navigating the challenges of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survival while also offering a platform for patients to share stories of their journey with cancer. Now in its seventh full year of publication, the magazine continues to tackle important cancer topics in a serious, comprehensive way. Among the most compelling stories published in 2018 were the following:

  • “Searching Blood for Cancer Clues” (Spring 2018). Liquid biopsies offer a new way to analyze a tumor’s genetics and to measure treatment response. But questions remain about whether these tools will help oncologists more effectively choose treatments for patients.
  • “Liver Cancer on the Rise” (Spring 2018). More people are being diagnosed with liver cancer. Contributing editor Sue Rochman examines how avoiding exposure to risk factors like cigarette smoking, obesity, and hepatitis B and C could cut liver cancer deaths in half.
  • “Pushing the Immune System to Its Limits” (Summer 2018). Associate editor Kate Yandell writes about how, while immunotherapy drugs have shown remarkable success in some cancer patients, they carry an array of side effects that can be challenging to monitor and treat.
  • “New Tactics for Bladder Cancer” (Fall 2018). After decades of minimal advances in the treatment of bladder cancer, research and new therapies are on the upswing, bringing options and hope to those who face the disease.

Under the leadership of editor-in-chief William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, Cancer Today pursued two major initiatives in 2018 to expand its presence among patients and their loved ones:

  • In February, the Cancer Today website was re-launched with a new format that makes it easier for readers to find late-breaking news about cancer research, new cancer therapies, prevention strategies, and clinical trials. The new website features more original stories, and its mobile-friendly design enables the editorial staff to share more content with the magazine’s growing social media following. Traffic to Cancer Today online has more than doubled since the launch of the new site, expanding the reach of this vital publication.
  • In March, the Cancer Today staff established an online book club to offer readers an opportunity to engage with the magazine staff and other cancer patients, caregivers, survivors, and advocates. Led by senior editor Marci A. Landsmann, each quarter the club featured a book that shared a unique perspective on the cancer experience—whether by illuminating a complex scientific topic or describing a common survivor experience or challenge. Online discussion of each book culminated in a live online conversation with the author on the magazine’s Facebook page.

AACR Distinguished Leadership Awards

During the opening ceremony of the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, the AACR honored outstanding men and women who have contributed substantially to cancer research with Distinguished Leadership Awards.

AACR Distinguished Award for Extraordinary Scientific Achievement and Leadership in Breast Cancer Research
C. Kent Osborne, MD
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas

Dr. Osborne has not only made groundbreaking research contributions, but he has also provided vision and leadership to the field of breast cancer science and medicine. Since 1992, he has served as a codirector of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), which is considered the world’s largest and most prestigious conference on breast cancer.

AACR Distinguished Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Science Policy and Advocacy
Anna D. Barker, PhD
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

As the chair of the AACR Public Education Committee from 1992-2001, and later as the founding chair of the reconstituted Science Policy and Legislative Affairs Committee from 2001-2002, Dr. Barker has been instrumental in defining and achieving the AACR’s science and public policy goals. In addition, her efforts to launch the AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program—which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018—established the AACR as a leader in survivor and patient advocacy.

AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Advocacy
Colonel James E. Williams (Retired)
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

A prostate cancer survivor, Colonel Williams is an alumnus of the AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program and has been a passionate advocate for funding and research dedicated to men’s health issues—in particular, the need for improved care for men from racial and ethnic minorities. He shared his story in the Summer 2016 issue of Cancer Today, and he serves as a member of the magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board.

AACR Distinguished Award for Extraordinary Scientific Innovation and Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research and Biomedical Science
Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, FAACR
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

A Nobel laureate and Fellow of the AACR Academy, Dr. Sharp was the program chair for the inaugural AACR Special Conference in 1988, and he currently serves as chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up To Cancer. He has consistently demonstrated his extraordinary dedication to the AACR and its mission.