A Chat with Friends of Cancer Research

A Chat with Friends of Cancer Research

04.12.11 | By Kate Connors

Below, we sat down with Ellen Sigal, chairperson and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, for her thoughts about the upcoming PhRMA annual meeting.

1. What message are you bringing to the PhRMA annual meeting?

Previously unimaginable progress, such as the sequencing of the human genome, has provided new approaches to developing life-saving medicine. However, increased collaboration between all stakeholders in the biomedical research enterprise is needed to fully capitalize on the scientific discoveries that have been made. The current economic environment, and current model for drug discovery science, is a challenge. But we must not lose sight of the role scientific research plays in making this country a global leader and the promise that medical innovation brings to its citizens.

2. You've spoken extensively about the role that public-private partnerships play in cancer research. Are government and industry doing enough?

It would be difficult to measure what exactly is "enough". This year over 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. Nearly 600,000 people will lose their fight against cancer. Unfortunately, each of us will likely be personally touched by those statistics, making them feel far more real than just an unbelievably large, and unacceptable number. So no, none of us are doing "enough" to help those diagnosed with cancer or any other debilitating disease.

3. President Obama has called for a "cure for cancer in our time." What needs to happen to make this a reality?

We have made significant progress for several types of cancer, but in order to fully reach this laudable goal, a true paradigm shift is needed. The current environment in which a large percentage of drugs fail in late-stage development, and those that succeed often take over a decade and billion dollars to get from the laboratory to the patient, will not allow us to reach this goal. To do so, it will take a true commitment from all sectors to develop new approaches within R&D, pre-competitive collaboration, regulation, and delivery of new medicines. The challenge to re-design components of the current system is great - but accepting the status quo should not be an option.

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