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Progress, Patients & Passion: Reflections on World Cancer Day 2019

Progress, Patients & Passion: Reflections on World Cancer Day 2019

 

A little over a decade ago, February 4 was declared World Cancer Day in an effort to raise awareness and education of cancer, and encourage a global unified fight against the disease. During this time as a practicing oncologist, the progress that has been made across multiple subtypes of cancer has truthfully been unimaginable.

We have witnessed unparalleled improvements in patient outcomes with the emergence of multiple therapies targeting genetic alterations or driver pathways that allow tumors to grow, and therapies that re-engage the immune system allowing it to be unleashed against the cancer. 

Despite these tremendous advances, the vast majority of patients with advanced cancer remain incurable. In fact, this day vividly reminds me of all the hands I have held and said with a broken heart, “I am sorry” followed by a pause to gather myself, “I am sorry, but we really have no good options at this point to treat your cancer.”

I also reminisce how cancer clinics currently live in a state of conflicted equilibrium with a mixture of negative feelings such as grief, disgust, despair, and anger, that are more than equally counterbalanced with positive feelings and emotions of joy, laughter, hope, and perhaps most importantly, love.

Indeed, I remain forever grateful to the nurses, pharmacists, medical assistants, and other clinic staff who on a day in and day out basis usher patients through their individual journeys, which characterizing as a rollercoaster would be an understatement. Fitting with the first sentence of Our Credo, these are the true angels of healthcare.

This reinforces why we must not rest with our current successes. I am grateful to be part of the Janssen Oncology team that works with such intentional focus and relentless effort to discover and develop the next generation of paradigm-changing treatments; therapies that will not only change the way oncologists’ practice, but will hopefully one day lead to cures. 

It is the passion of all our colleagues that allows me to remain hopeful, that at some point during my lifetime, February 4th will no longer be a day to raise awareness of cancer, but a day we globally celebrate the true elimination of all cancer.

 

Posted on February 4, 2019