cancer

The Business of Cancer Control After a Pandemic

The American Cancer Society details the need to get back to cancer screenings.

Thanks to the generous support of business and community leaders in New Jersey, the American Cancer Society and our advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network), have emerged from the pandemic strong. Now more than ever, our organization is sharply focused on increasing cancer screenings, improving health equity, and accelerating research breakthroughs that save lives.

There is no more urgent cancer issue than getting people back to cancer screening tests in order to detect cancer early when it is easiest to treat. Cancer deaths have declined 41% since 1989 – that’s 3.2 million deaths averted – largely due to cancer screening tests that detect pre-cancerous changes and early cancer. In the last 18 months, we’ve witnessed a staggering decline in cancer screening as medical appointments were interrupted due to COVID-19.

This year, the American Cancer Society launched a multifaceted Get Screened Initiative, working with local healthcare partners, and supported by corporate sponsors including Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, the National Football League (NFL), Merck, Novartis Oncology, Pfizer Oncology, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), AmerisourceBergen, Intuitive, and Roche Diagnostics. Employers can join this movement by leveraging opportunities such as the annual enrollment period and awareness months to encourage employees to talk to their doctors about scheduling regular screening tests to monitor their health and catch cancer early. The business community has an important role to play and much to gain through saving on healthcare costs, promoting a healthy workforce with increased productivity, and demonstrating corporate social responsibility. For a toolkit and more information, visit cancer.org/get-screened.

Achieving greater health equity is a top priority. If we are to achieve our vision of a world without cancer and meet our 2035 goal of reducing cancer mortality by 40%, we must reduce cancer disparities and ensure that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive cancer. The American Cancer Society is funding 61 grants reflecting $48.6 million in health disparities/health equity research. This year, we launched a 10-year Diversity in Cancer Research program to offer paid biomedical research internship opportunities for people whose racial or ethnic background is underrepresented in the field. Twenty-five community and health system projects totaling more than $7.7 million funded by the ACS and Pfizer Global Medical Grants are aimed at addressing breast and prostate health disparities in the Black community. These are just a few ways we are addressing systemic issues in cancer research and care.

When the American Cancer Society faced a severe funding crisis last year, the business community responded. While we announced $33.8 million in new grants that began on July 1, 2021, we are still working to close the gap of approximately $50 million in research investments that were lost last year due to the financial impact of COVID-19. We continue making significant progress in several emerging research areas, including: the use of CDK4/6 inhibitors for the treatment of advanced, metastatic HR+/HER2- breast cancer; clinical studies using fecal microbiota transplantation to overcome immunotherapy resistance in melanoma; studying utility of liquid biopsy for cancer screening and detection; and the development of platform technologies to screen for antiviral inhibitors.

Employers and business leaders make it possible for the American Cancer Society to further progress with creative and innovative approaches to reducing cancer in New Jersey and beyond. Cancer hasn’t stopped, and neither can we.

About the Author: Dr. Arnold Baskies is: chairman of the American Cancer Society Global Cancer Control Advisory Council, and the St. Baldrick’s ACS Alliance; past chairman of the American Cancer Society National Board of Directors; and clinical professor of surgery at Rowan School of Medicine.

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