The Hematologist

May-June 2017, Volume 14, Issue 3

Standing Up for Patients

Kenneth C. Anderson, MD Kraft Family Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

Published on: May 01, 2017

At the time of writing this, ASH and other medical groups are preparing to participate in the “March for Science,” taking place April 22 on the National Mall, with satellite marches in various U.S. cities. ASH has long been an outspoken leader in advocating for innovation and education through adequate research funding, and now, many more voices are joining the chorus to champion scientific and clinical research in the face of whatever challenges we might encounter.

The goal of our efforts is to provide sufficient federal investments in research to allow for continued discoveries at the bench, which then translate to improved diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Regardless of your philosophical leanings and whether you spend more time in the lab or in the clinic, we must ensure that key agencies receive appropriate funding so that progress may continue.

Never has there been a time of such rapid advances in scientific and clinical research. The area of precision medicine — selecting effective therapies based on the genomic profile of the patient’s tumor — holds promise for more effective and well tolerated treatments. Targeted therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia treatment with imatinib is the quintessential paradigm of this approach. ASH has rallied behind the latest developments in tailored, precision treatments for some of the most devastating illnesses such as acute myeloid leukemia. Going forward, our precision medicine efforts include big data initiatives to collate genomic information with clinical outcomes to allow for a better understanding of disease heterogeneity, prognosis, and treatment. Immune therapies are now transforming how we think about and treat cancers. Checkpoint inhibitors in solid tumors such as lung cancer and melanoma, as well as in Hodgkin lymphoma, are effective even in the setting of resistance to all other treatments. Importantly, CAR-T cells can help us achieve significant responses in children and adults with advanced hematologic malignancies. ASH has major initiatives now to promote continued discovery and to exploit immune therapies. These and other advances will only continue if our society prioritizes research on the one hand, and training the next generation of researchers and caregivers on the other. ASH is committed to both these goals.

The progress we have made in hematology research has improved and will continue to improve the lives and health of our patients and their families. Whether you took part in the March for Science or have made your voice heard in other ways, it is now imperative that we stay aware and informed and proactively advocate for research support. To that end, ASH will continue to provide timely information on how to advocate in support of scientific research. The Society is further committed to delivering the promise of medical advances to our patients, who count on us to develop new, more effective, and potentially curative therapies.

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