Cancer Research: Powered By Hope

richard_gaynorToday's guest blog is written by Richard Gaynor, M.D., senior vice president, product development and medical affairs for Lilly Oncology.

To recognize innovative cancer research – research that has helped reduce cancer deaths over the last two decades by 20 percent – Congress proclaimed May as National Cancer Research Month.  I think this is a good time to reflect on the power of research – its contributions to past achievements and future discoveries – and above all, the growing hopefulness it brings to cancer patients.

Recognizing the power of hope, the American Association for Cancer Research, the month’s sponsor, is asking individuals touched by cancer to share what “Real Hope Is” to them. In this video, Lori, a breast cancer survivor, said, “Real hope is knowing when this (treatment) stops working, there’s another good option that balances longevity and quality of life. Real hope is seeing my son married and maybe holding (my) grandchild.”

Cancer research is fueled by hope. You can’t be a pessimist and be in this field. This outlook is shared by my Lilly Oncology research team. Our goal is to give “real hope” to people with cancer through cutting-edge research. The amount of progress achieved in the last few years has been nothing short of amazing. In fact, I believe we are at the threshold of a whole new era in which cancer will become chronic or curable.

But research also needs to be fueled by investment. There are about 2,000 drugs in development for cancer around the world; of those, about 80 percent have the potential to be first-in-class treatments, representing entirely new approaches to the treatment of cancer. With continued support for science and innovation, we foresee accomplishing in oncology what has been achieved against other major public health problems such as HIV and AIDS, in which scientific advances yielded major gains for patients and averted a predicted health spending crisis. 

And investment needs to be fueled by knowledge. This is why our PACE  (Patient Access to Cancer care Excellence) initiative created the PACE Continuous Innovation Indicators™ (CII). The CII is the first-ever, evidence-based tool that makes it possible for anyone who makes decisions about cancer research to visualize progress in cancer care, make objective comparisons across various cancer types, and reveal unmet needs to inform future cancer research and policy initiatives. 

The realization that we are creating new cancer treatments with the power to change people’s lives for the better is a feeling like no other. I can’t imagine doing anything else than what I’m doing now.