National Cancer Survivors Day: Celebrate survival – and research

May 30, 2014 | by

Nearly 14 million Americans are cancer survivors, an impressive community that will celebrate their survival, their lives, on National Cancer Survivors Day, also known as June 1.

On this day each year, survivors, their families, their caregivers and the medical professionals who treated them pause to celebrate milestones, to give thanks for support – and to appreciate all those things in life that cannot be taken for granted.

Survivors remind everyone at City of Hope why they do what they do  – and not just those people who directly care for patients. City of Hope is devoted to scientific discovery, in hopes of developing better treatments, finding ways to prevent and cure cancer and perhaps – as it did when tuberculosis ceased to be a leading health scourge – eventually devoting itself to curing a new disease.

Steven T. Rosen, M.D., City of Hope's provost and chief scientific officer, explains why research is so crucial in the fight to increase cancer survival.

Why is it important to seek treatment at an institution that is doing research?

cancer survivor day

Steven T. Rosen explains why research is so crucial in the fight to increase cancer survivorship.

Cancer therapy is in continuous evolution. The goal is to control and, when possible, cure each disease with as few side effects as possible. Every advance began with an experiment or clinical trial.

At research institutions like City of Hope, the multidisciplinary team of clinicians and scientists work hand-in-hand to tailor the best therapy for each individual patient. As we're involved in developing new therapies, we have a greater knowledge of what the current and future options for treatment may be.

Why is it important for scientists to pursue research – even basic science – at institutions treating patients?

The dialogue between the laboratory scientist and the clinician is critical for advancing knowledge. It is important to understand the problem and create solutions that can be applied to patients who are impacted. City of Hope has a continuous dialogue between scientists and clinicians fostered by educational  initiatives as well as joint funding opportunities.

What scientific breakthroughs do you think have been most crucial in increasing survivorship?

There have been a spectrum of critical advances that span the different disciplines involved in patient care, including surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology, radiology, nursing and supportive care.

We currently have less invasive and less toxic approaches with enhanced efficacy that are applied across a broad spectrum of cancers. Prevention and early detection are important components that often have the most dramatic effect on the health of a population.

What’s the next frontier for cancer research?

The goal is to prevent if possible and cure if necessary. This is accomplished by our ability to target the cancer cell without harming the normal cell. The technology is now available to make these advances. If the funds are available for talented investigators, the answers will follow in a timely manner.

At City of Hope, we remain in the forefront of advancing targeted therapies to cancer treatments that discern the difference between cancer and the normal cell, involving small molecules, biologic agents and immunologic approaches with the unique capability of producing the next generation of these compounds on this campus.

How many patients being treated for cancer participate in cancer research, and why is it important?

At present, a minority of patients nationwide participate for a variety of complex reasons, including other significant medical conditions, absence of a trial for a specific disease or situation, insurance coverage and historic myths about clinical studies. We  must do better if we going to conquer the broad spectrum of cancers.

One myth I would like to eliminate is the fear that people are used as guinea pigs. They are not.

Some worry they're getting a placebo. People are worried there's not much knowledge about a particular agent in a trial. The bulk of clinical trials target specific abnormalities in the cancer and the changes for success are greater than they ever have been, and with more limited side effects. Much of the groundwork is done prior to patients ever receiving the drugs, and they have already been considerably tested to determine what the appropriate dosing would be and what the potential side effects are.

It's safe, and we monitor on a constant basis to maximize safety.

**

City of Hope patients and families are invited to a Celebration of Life on Thursday, June 5, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day. Hosted by the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, the event will honor cancer survivors and their caregivers. Steven T. Rosen, M.D., will be the featured speaker.

For more information, call 626-256-4673, ext. 32273 (3CARE) or email BillerResourceCenter@coh.org.

**

Learn more about cancer research at City of Hope.