Chatrick Paul of AstraZeneca shares his perspective on the mission to eradicate cancer as a leading cause of death
This year is the 50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act – which cemented our commitment to oncology by establishing unprecedented networks of cancer centers, clinical trials, data collection and advanced research to tackle some of the greatest challenges in cancer. The anniversary gives us an opportunity to reflect on the immense progress that has been made by the oncology community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also envision the road ahead to achieve our bold ambition of eliminating cancer as a leading cause of death.
At AstraZeneca, we have never been more committed to our ambition of revolutionizing cancer care to transform the lives of people living with cancer worldwide and provide cures for cancer in every form. This is an incredibly bold ambition, but it’s the one we strongly believe in, because we know that patients deserve the right treatment at the right time. The late Dr. José Baselga, one of the most pioneering figures in precision oncology and executive vice president of AstraZeneca's oncology research and development, challenged us to treat disease earlier, harder and smarter – by combining our understanding of specific genetic mutations and resistance mechanisms, together with early detection, precise monitoring and powerful analytics.
To do this, we are focused on understanding the underlying biology of cancer and all its complexities to discover, develop and deliver life-changing therapies that can transform survival. By defining new biomarkers and therapeutic targets that span some of the most hostile and hard-to-treat cancers, including pancreatic cancer, certain blood cancers, and cancers within breast, lung, ovarian, and prostate, we are evolving the way people are diagnosed and treated. While biomarker testing is used in some advanced cancers, testing is not always prioritized even if targeted therapies exist.1,2 While genetic testing is used in some cancers, other forms of early screening and interception, to help find cancers at earlier stages, are often overlooked.3 Therefore, in addition to removing roadblocks for early interception of cancer and building programs to facilitate screening, we are focused on creating treatments that provide meaningful responses for people with metastatic and treatment-resistant diseases.
We understand that bringing optimal care to each person living with cancer requires the understanding of not just the cancer itself, but an appreciation of the individuality of each person and his or her unique cancer experience and ensuring patients get the right medicine for their type of cancer. Despite groundbreaking advances in cancer care over the last 50 years since the enactment of the National Cancer Act, we know there is still much work to be done to continue to improve cancer care and, perhaps most importantly, to improve efforts around health equity and equality. COVID-19 has highlighted the ongoing disparities, particularly with many racial and ethnic minority groups and people who have low income or are uninsured.4 We can do better and many across oncology are amplifying efforts to address this. At AstraZeneca, one of the ways in which we are doing our part is by looking critically at our clinical trial diversity, assessing efforts to improve access to care, as well as partnerships with organizations within underserved communities to drive grassroots interventions and address determinants of health.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we cannot go at it alone. We know that outsmarting cancer requires a collaborative approach to ensure that every person living with cancer has access to innovative medicines and care. We work across the cancer care community to break down barriers to care and work with our partners to positively impact systems. We must continue to come together – patients, caregivers, advocacy groups, researchers, healthcare providers, policymakers, families and friends - to bring about real change and improve outcomes for those affected by cancer.
Put most simply, at AstraZeneca, we work to achieve our bold ambition by starting with one – whether that is one biomarker, one indication, one barrier to care, one healthcare system or partnership – and we continue to build from there. With this approach, we are not only providing life-changing medicines, but going beyond the medicine to increase access to healthcare and create positive change, which are integral to ensuring sustainable health outcomes for society.
With another American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Meeting in the books, albeit during the most devastating global health pandemic in modern history, I am both humbled and optimistic about the future of this cancer revolution.
US-53227 Last Updated 7/21