Director’s message: prioritizing cancer research

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Federal cancer research funding is vital to meet growing challenges as the population ages.

As I write this message, the snow has finally stopped in Minnesota and the month of May is upon us — a time each year when the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center joins the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in celebrating National Cancer Research Month, a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cancer research.

Photo of Robert B. Diasio, M.D.
Robert B. Diasio, M.D., director,
Mayo Clinic Cancer Center,

This year's campaign theme is "Bringing Cancer Research to Life." This issue of Forefront highlights a handful of the hundreds of researchers at Mayo Clinic who bring cancer research to life every day.

Dr. Suresh Chari has identified genes that could help predict the development of pancreatic cancer in people with type 2 diabetes. Drs. Roberto Leon Ferre and Charles Loprinzi have made an important discovery about treating hot flashes — finding that the drug oxybutynin helps reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in women unable to take hormone replacement therapy, such as breast cancer survivors. All of this research directly benefits patients, changing lives for the better.

Between 1991 and 2015, cancer research has helped us reduce the cancer death rate in the United States by 24%, according to the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2018. But even with such progress, the challenge of cancer as a global public health threat continues to grow.

Cancer accounted for 16 percent of the 54.7 million deaths that occurred around the world in 2016. In the United States, the situation is worse, with cancer accounting for 22 percent of 2.7 million deaths. These percentages are expected to increase as our population continues to age.

We join the AACR in calling on congress to make cancer research a top priority for our nation. Only through robust and predictable federal funding will we continue to drive research breakthroughs that change approaches to cancer prevention, screening and treatment and that improve the lives of cancer survivors and their families.

Robert B. Diasio, M.D.
Director, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
William J. and Charles Mayo Professor


This article was originally published in Forefront, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center's online magazine, which ceased publication in December 2020.