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Participants in the fifth annual Rally for Medical Research Hill Day. The AACR is a founding organizer of the event, which brought more than 300 advocates to Capitol Hill in September 2017 to call on Congress to make biomedical research funding a national priority.

Science Policy and Government Affairs

AACR Past Presidents prepare to enter the White House to witness President Nixon signing the National Cancer Act into law, December 23, 1971. Front row, left to right: Arthur C. Upton, MD, FAACR; Jacob Furth, MD; James F. Holland, MD, FAACR; Joseph H. Burchenal, MD; and Sidney Weinhouse, PhD.

In 1909, two years after the founding of the AACR, U.S. President William Howard Taft recommended that Congress establish a National Bureau of Health by aligning the efforts of existing government health agencies and creating new agencies as needed to support public well-being. That same year, AACR co-founder and President Harvey R. Gaylord, MD, wrote a letter to President Taft urging him to include the establishment of a Department of Cancer Research in his recommendation. Sixty-two years later, in 1971, AACR leaders advocated successfully for the passing of the National Cancer Act, which transformed the National Cancer Institute and launched the “war on cancer.”

Today, through its Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., the AACR continues to support federal funding for cancer research, providing an authoritative source of information to policy makers and regulators and serving as a powerful voice for the cancer research community.

Working to Safeguard Federal Funding

Continued progress against cancer was threatened in 2017 when the Trump administration released a budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 that included a 21 percent cut in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The AACR raised its authoritative voice throughout the year on behalf of the NIH and NCI, opposing the proposed cuts and mobilizing leaders and stakeholders to urge Congress to make cancer research a continued priority.

  • Early-Career Investigator Hill Day. Due to budget limitations in FY 2017, the NCI funded only 12 percent of approved research grant applications from early-career investigators, leaving many promising ideas unsupported. As a result, the average age at which researchers receive their first NIH independent research grant is 42, and this dearth of opportunities threatens the future of the cancer workforce. AACR member and mentor Steven R. Patierno, PhD, and the AACR Associate Member Council brought 15 Associate Members to Washington in March 2017 for the second annual Early-Career Investigator Hill Day to educate Congress about the vital importance of sustaining the nation’s pipeline of cancer scientists. Meetings with 39 congressional offices were held in conjunction with a National Day of Action campaign, in which advocates from around the U.S. urged lawmakers to provide predictable funding increases for the NIH.
  • AACR-AACI-ASCO Joint Hill Day. In May, the AACR marked National Cancer Research Month by partnering with the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for their tenth annual joint Hill Day. The three organizations brought more than 80 researchers, physician-scientists, cancer center directors, survivors, and patient advocates to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders and their offices to discuss the vital role of federally funded cancer research in improving the lives of patients. At a reception the evening before the Hill Day, the participating organizations honored Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) (second from left) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) for their outstanding leadership on behalf of cancer research.
  • Cancer Progress Report Congressional Briefing. The AACR released its seventh annual Cancer Progress Report at a special Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Hosted by AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), and AACR President Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, the briefing outlined the recent advances made against cancer as a result of federally funded research and called on Congress to support future advances through sustained increases in funding. Two members of Congress, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), addressed the briefing to express their strong support for NIH funding. Representative Raskin, a colorectal cancer survivor who was featured in the report, joined other featured survivors—Merkel cell carcinoma survivor Carrie Best and ovarian cancer survivor Teri Woodhull—in discussing the impact of cancer research on their lives.
  • Rally for Medical Research Hill Day. In September, the AACR resumed its leadership role as the founding organizer of the Rally for Medical Research, joining more than 300 scientific and patient organizations to advocate for biomedical science. The fifth annual Hill Day brought more than 300 advocates to Capitol Hill to participate in more than 240 meetings with congressional offices. Several members of Congress addressed the Rally participants and confirmed their support for federally funded biomedical research, including Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) (near right) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), co-chairmen of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies; and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Jerry Moran (R-KS), members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

    Across the country, advocates participating in the Rally National Day of Action used e-mail and social media to contact 96 senators and 291 members of the House to express their support for sustained increases to the NIH budget.
  • Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee Members on Capitol Hill. Members of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee attended meetings with key congressional offices during a special visit to Capitol Hill in November. Committee members met with Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA); the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); the office of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; and the office of Representative Mark Walker (R-NC), chairman of the Republican Study Committee. The AACR members urged the congressional leaders to support a budget agreement that would lift the spending caps and to increase the NIH budget by $2 billion for FY 2018.

Milestones in Science Policy and Government Affairs


AACR President Harvey Gaylord, MD, writes a letter to President William Howard Taft urging government funding for cancer research.


At the 38th Annual Meeting, May 16-17, a policy presentation is made: "On the Organization and Support of Cancer Research,” which concludes that the AACR should advocate for increased funding.


AACR leaders advocate for the passing of the National Cancer Act and attend the signing at the White House on December 23.


The first AACR science policy committee, the Public Issues Committee, is formed.


AACR retains a firm to provide representation in Washington, D.C.


On September 25-26, AACR participates in "THE MARCH: Coming Together to Conquer Cancer," which culminates in a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. THE MARCH Research Task Force Report is published in Cancer Research.


The AACR opens its Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs in Washington, DC.


The first AACR Cancer Progress Report is published.


The AACR partners with over 200 organizations and institutions to conduct the first Rally for Medical Research, April 8, Washington, DC. More than 10,000 people attended the Rally to show their support for federal funding for cancer research.

Engaging with Policy Makers

The AACR supports the national conversation over cancer science policy, educating lawmakers about the latest advances in cancer research and exposing them to the perspectives of stakeholders from across the cancer community.

  • Cancer Research Roundtable. In March, the AACR partnered with University Hospital and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in Newark to host a roundtable discussion titled “Cancer Research Today: Innovation, Progress and Promise.” U.S. Representative Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ)—a co-chair of the Congressional Men’s Health Caucus whose father died of colorectal cancer and who works to increase awareness of early cancer screening—joined the discussion. The participants highlighted recent advances and opportunities in cancer treatment, prevention, and early detection, demonstrating how sustained federal investment in biomedical research can save and improve the lives of those touched by cancer.
  • Congressional Briefing on Cancer Survivorship. Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight authority over NIH, provided opening remarks for a Congressional briefing organized by the AACR in April. Titled “The Road to Cancer Survivorship: Discover, Predict, Prevent, and Treat,” the briefing was moderated by George D. Demetri, MD, a member of the AACR Board of Directors and chair of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee. Panelists included AACR members Anna D. Barker, PhD, Chanita Hughes-Halbert, PhD, Andreana N. Holowatyj, and patient advocate Jack Whelan.
  • AACR-SITC Joint Congressional Briefing. The AACR worked with the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) in July to host a Congressional briefing titled “Progress in Immunotherapy: Delivering Hope and Clinical Benefit to Cancer Patients.” Moderated by AACR President-Elect Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, the briefing highlighted the exciting innovations in the field of immuno-oncology and discussed ways to ensure that even more cancer patients can benefit from these revolutionary treatments. Panelists included Lisa H. Butterfield, PhD, president of SITC; Bernard A. Fox, PhD, past-president of SITC; AACR members Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, and Daniel S. Chen, MD, PhD; and patient advocate Stefanie Joho.

Fostering Dialogue with Regulators and the Cancer Community

The AACR’s advocacy efforts to ensure robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for the NIH are critical to driving innovations in cancer research. To ensure that those innovations are translated into treatments and delivered to patients as rapidly and efficiently as possible, the AACR also engages regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies. Through workshops and briefings, the AACR supports the FDA’s mission by highlighting the science behind regulatory policy.

  • AACR Annual Meeting 2017: Regulatory Science and Science Policy Tracks. To complement the cutting-edge cancer science on the AACR Annual Meeting program, the OSPGA presented two comprehensive tracks of sessions covering science policy and regulatory science and policy. The science policy track featured a timely session titled “E-cigarettes: Are They a Public Health Threat or a Useful Cessation Tool?” Chaired by AACR Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee member Benjamin A. Toll, PhD, the session included presentations from subcommittee chair Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, and Brian A. King, PhD, MPH, deputy director for research translation at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Office on Smoking and Health. A highlight of the regulatory science and policy track was a session titled “Tables Turned: A Conversation with the Press About the Future of Cancer Research and Treatment.” The sessions featured Richard Pazdur, MD, director of the FDA Oncology Center for Excellence, moderating a panel that included Adam Feuerstein from The Street, Matthew Herper from Forbes, Laurie McGinley from The Washington Post, and Meg Tirrell from CNBC.
  • AACR-FDA Oncology Dose Finding Workshop, Part III. Co-chaired by AACR President-Elect Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, and Amy E. McKee, MD, supervisory associate director at the FDA Office of Hematology and Oncology Products, the third edition of this annual jointly-organized workshop was held in July and focused on approaches to combination therapy and best practices regarding patient and dose selection, biomarkers to aid in selection, and novel endpoints that can define patient benefit.
  • AACR-FDA Workshop on Liquid Biopsies in Oncology Drug and Device Development, Part II. Held in October, the second edition of this joint workshop examined the regulatory challenges in adopting liquid biopsies for early detection, disease monitoring, and use as surrogate end point markers for drug development. The workshop was co-chaired by AACR Past President (2014-2015) Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, FAACR (far right); Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD, a member of the AACR Regulatory Science and Policy Subcommittee; Julia Beaver, MD, acting director of the FDA Division of Oncology Products 1, Office of Hematology and Oncology (OHOP); Gideon Blumenthal, MD, acting deputy director of OHOP; and Reena Philip, PhD, director of the Division of Molecular Genetics and Pathology at the FDA Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health.

Survivor and Patient Advocacy

Rhonda M. Smith (center), CEO and founder of Breast Cancer Partner and a participant in the AACR Scientist-Survivor Program, discusses her poster on "Reducing breast cancer morbidity and mortality in African American women" with attendees at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017.

Just as the AACR’s scientific programs and initiatives support scientists and clinicians, its Survivor and Patient Advocacy programs empower patients, caregivers, and advocates to approach their cancer journeys with knowledge and hope. By maintaining a dialogue between the professionals who research and treat cancer and the patients they serve, the AACR builds a stronger cancer community.

Scientist↔Survivor Program

Nearly 50 advocates participated in AACR Scientist↔Survivor programs (SSP) in 2017, which were offered at the Annual Meeting in April and at the Science of Cancer Health Disparities conference in September. The participants attended sessions with AACR scientist mentors, gaining an understanding of the innovative science behind their treatment experiences while providing their counterparts with vital patient perspectives.

During the Annual Meeting, three AACR members were named Emeritus Mentors in recognition of their longstanding commitment to the SSP. The advocates thanked Aime Franco, PhD, Jerry S. H. Lee, PhD, and Emil Lou, MD, PhD, for sharing their time and expertise with program participants for more than three years.

Program participants took advantage of the Annual Meeting’s Washington, D.C., location by attending a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill titled “The Road to Cancer Survivorship: Discover, Predict, Prevent, and Treat” (see above). SSP founder Anna Barker, PhD, and patient advocate Jack Whelan participated in a panel discussion during the briefing.

Milestones in the Survivor and Patient Advocacy Program


The first Certificates of Award (later named Public Service Awards) are presented and the citations published in Cancer Research: Mary W. Lasker; Sen. Lister Hill (D-AL); Rep. John E. Fogarty (D-RI), posthumously.


The first Public Forum, Progress and New Hope in the Fight Against Cancer, is held.


The inaugural Scientist↔Survivor Program takes place at the Annual Meeting, March 28-April 1.


CR, the AACR's first magazine for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, is launched.


The Scientist↔Survivor Program is expanded to include the AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities.


In collaboration with the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation, the AACR establishes a special education session for advocates attending the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.


Cancer Today, the rebranded AACR magazine for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, is launched.

Cancer Today Magazine

Cancer Today, the AACR’s magazine for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, is a vital resource for anyone navigating the challenges of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survival. Now in its sixth full year of publication, the magazine continues to tackle important cancer topics in a serious, comprehensive way. Among the most compelling stories published in 2017 were the following:

  • “Seeking a Second Opinion” (Spring 2017). Noting that “many, and probably most, cancer patients do not seek out another opinion,” contributing writer Stephen Ornes cites studies showing that another doctor’s perspective “can help improve cancer care, change a treatment plan, bolster a patient’s confidence and, rarely, even alter a diagnosis.”
  • “A New Look for Clinical Trials” (Summer 2017). Cancer patients participating in clinical trials are often younger, healthier, and less likely to belong to a racial or ethnic minority group than cancer patients in general. Contributing editor Sue Rochman describes recent efforts to bring clinical trials more in line with patients who may eventually receive the treatment being tested.
  • “Cancer Control in the Community” (Fall 2017). Senior editor Marci A. Landsmann examines efforts to reduce the burden of cancer through screening, vaccinations, and public education campaigns that emphasize healthy behaviors. “These initiatives,” she writes, “which often are part of a statewide cancer control plan, rely on the cooperation of community members, hospitals, advocacy groups, and government at all levels.”
  • “A Call to Care” (Winter 2017/2018). Associate editor Kate Yandell puts the spotlight on family members and friends who often are on the front line of support for cancer patients and survivors. She writes that caregiving has grown to include “complex medical tasks like giving injections and providing wound care. Caregiving can take a toll on finances and make it difficult for caregivers to keep a job, and caregivers have high rates of depression and anxiety.”

In February and September, Cancer Today expanded beyond the printed page, bringing vital information to patients through two webinars. Moderated by editor-in-chief William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, the webinars discussed the latest recommendations for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer screening, and presented highlights from the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2017.

Cancer Today continued to earn accolades in 2017, as two articles—“Cancer and Watchful Waiting” by executive editor Kevin McLaughlin and “Reasons to Dream” by senior editor Marci A. Landsmann—were cited for editorial excellence by the 2017 Folio Eddie Awards.

AACR Distinguished Public Service Awards

Jack Whelan receives the 2017 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award from AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc) during the opening ceremony at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017.

The AACR Distinguished Public Service Award honors the extraordinary contributions of an individual or group whose groundbreaking, innovative work exemplifies the organization’s mission. During the opening ceremony of the 2017 Annual Meeting, the AACR honored four individuals for their outstanding efforts to advance cancer science for the benefit of patients.

2017 AACR Distinguished Public Service Awards

The Honorable Roy Blunt (R – MO)
Washington, D.C.
United States Senator
As the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, which oversees the NIH budget, Senator Blount was instrumental in securing a $2 billion increase in NIH funding for fiscal year 2017. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his steadfast commitment to making medical research a national priority.

W. E. “Ed” Bosarge, PhD
Founder and CEO, Capital Technologies, Inc.
Houston, Texas
A passionate believer in the power of preventative and regenerative medicine, Dr. Bosarge has launched and supported a wide variety of research and development efforts, and his generous contribution to the AACR has enabled the organization to establish the AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research in perpetuity. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award for his transformative approaches to cancer and biomedical science and for his philanthropic support of the next generation of cancer researchers.

Jack Whelan
Cancer Research Advocate
Andover, Massachusetts
Diagnosed with Waldenström macroglobulinemia, a rare and incurable type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in 2007, Mr. Whelan benefited from his participation in clinical trials. He devoted his time to advocating for cancer research and educating patients about the importance of participation in clinical trials. He was recognized with the Distinguished Public Service Award for his tireless efforts to support cancer researchers and to improve the lives of cancer patients.

Sidney Kimmel
Malibu, California
A committed philanthropist who established the Sidney Kimmel Foundation in 1993 to “connect promise to progress,” Mr. Kimmel has donated more than $500 million to support cancer research, establishing and sustaining some of the most renowned comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his longstanding commitment to supporting innovative cancer research.