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A world free from cancers: Probable, possible, or preposterous?

ALEXANDRIA, Va. February 27, 2014 A panel of leading health, economics and policy experts today discussed the prospects for a future where cancers are rendered manageable or even eradicated and the variables affecting progress toward that goal so that cancer patients are able to lead normal, productive lives and thus be "free from" their cancers. The forum was hosted by Research!America and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The event, titled, "A World Free from Cancers: Probable, Possible, or Preposterous?" was held at the New York Academy of Sciences.

Medical innovation has contributed to the economic success of the U.S. over the last 50 years and it offers enormous potential to make a meaningful difference in the quality and length of our lives in the next 50 years. Of all the critical trends that will create a prosperous future, the panelists believe that medical innovation will be the most important. In order to achive a culture of change where science and medicine will be part of the solution, all stakeholders must stand up and advocate for pro-patient and pro-innovation policies and laws. By supporting a positive regulatory and legislative environment and working toward innovative solutions for complex healthcare challenges, policy makers can help combat devastating diseases like cancers.

"While medical innovation has driven extraordinary progress against cancer in the U.S. and peer nations, we know that globally, cancer cases and death rates are rising. And even in the U.S., the incidence of some cancers, including pancreatic cancer, is rising," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. "We need to work together to address these alarming trends, and commit to overcoming the barriers to achieving a world free from cancers. Ensuring that U.S. policymakers sustain a policy environment conducive to rapid-pace medical innovation is crucial."

The panel addressed the role of medical innovation, not only in the fight against cancer, but as a major force in our nation's economic progress. Among the technological advances of the 21st century, medical innovation has been the biggest factor in improving the lives of patients, benefiting the healthcare system and improving prosperity. Over the past 50 years, medical innovation has been the source of more than half of all economic growth in the United States.

The panel, moderated by Fox News Channel's Jim Pinkerton, featured several leading figures in the cancer and healthcare community, including:

  • Clifton Leaf, journalist and author, "The Truth in Small Doses: Why We're Losing the War on Cancer-and How to Win It"

  • Julie Fleshman, president and CEO, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

  • Laurie MacCaskill, seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor and chair, national Board of Directors, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

  • Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD, director, Duke Center for Learning Healthcare

  • Robert J. Hariri, MD, PhD, chairman, founder and chief scientific officer, Celgene Cellular Therapeutics

  • Scott Gottlieb, MD, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute

  • Frank Lichtenberg, PhD, Courtney C. Brown Professor of Business, Columbia University

"Although medical innovation has played a key role in the fight against cancer and improving the overall cancer survival rate, much work lies ahead especially for deadly cancers such as pancreatic cancer where the five-year survival rate is just six percent," said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. "In order to move towards a world free from cancers, the cancer infrastructure has to continue to keep up with the advances in science and our nation needs to make medical research a priority."

The panel discussed the benefits of past breakthroughs for some types of cancer: there have been an estimated 50 million life-years saved and $4.9 trillion added in economic value due to innovative cancer treatments since 1990. However, further success in reducing the devastating impacts of cancers and accelerating medical innovation is dependent on developing effective collaborative solutions from an "ecosystem of innovation" bringing together scientists, patients, healthcare providers, private-sector medical innovators, academia, payers and policymakers to find solutions that will save lives from all types of cancers.

"We have made great progress since 1971, when President Nixon declared the war on cancer, in terms of understanding the epidemiology of the disease, improving diagnoses, discovering new treatment paradigms and novel therapeutic approaches to better manage cancers," said Robert Hariri, MD, PhD, chairman, founder and chief scientific officer, Celgene Cellular Therapeutics. "But the progress we've made is not enough. We need to continue the momentum we have started and work together to change the course of human health for patients, healthcare, our economy and future generations."

Contact: Suzanne Ffolkes

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