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AACR Talk

Some notable quotes from this week’s meeting on cancer research

By | April 11, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, KWZAs the editors of The Scientist wandered the halls of the Washington, DC, convention center and attended some of the talks given by the 18,000 attendees at this week’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference, we jotted down some snippets of wisdom—and humor—that we heard. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from this year’s meeting.

We know that progress has been great, and I believe that, while we have a complex and difficult moment in the set of diseases we are trying to conquer, we do have better tools, we have more information, we have yet greater talent. Unfortunately we have less money, but we can do a lot, so let's do the best we can.

Harold Varmus, NCI Director, in a special lecture at AACR

Make no mistake, it is possible to ruin our scientific community. If we continue on this path, we will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

—Rockefeller University President Mark Tessier-Lavigne, speaking about funding cuts to the National Institutes of Health during a rally for biomedical research in Washington, DC

Using published articles as the way we talk to each other is absurd. We need to stop working like hermits.

Stephen Friend, Sage Bionetworks, on improving communication between cancer researchers

I hate the editors of these journals more than I hate Republicans.

James Watson, of double-helix fame, speaking about recent rejections from several journals

I work for the government so I'm not easily provoked.

Jim Doroshow, National Cancer Institute (NCI), in response to Charles Sawyers “provocative questions” about N of 1 trials

I call it the Maserati approach, mostly because I like fast cars.

Elaine Mardis, Washington University School of Medicine, on her approach to cancer research using a variety of sequencing methods to identify targetable mutations

Obviously we’re not going to cure patients 1 by 1. . . . How can we go beyond the anecdote?

Andrea Califano, Columbia University, on N of 1 trials

I would like to shame the editors of journals in the audience who think that N of 1 is an anecdote.

Charles Sawyers, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, on the difficulty getting N of 1 trials published

We’re basically where the chemists were as alchemists. We keep track of all the data that we have but without the equivalent of a periodic table, we’re going to stumble and fall.

Stephen Friend, Sage Bionetworks, on the importance of building an interactive network to share cancer data in real time

Cancer is a state in which the epigenome is allowed to have greater plasticity than it is supposed to have in somatic tissues of an adult. Maybe it should have it early in development, but it is that very process that is reactivated and it leads to this epigenetic heterogeneity and that leads to all the various hallmarks of cancer.

Andrew Feinberg, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, on the epigenetic mechanisms of cancer risk

Prevention is not glamorous, metrics of success are hard to quantify. Unfortunately, averted death or prolonged good health don’t do much to sell drugs or to boost physician’s credentials compared to curing disease or eliminating symptoms.

Jed Fahey, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

I have no financial relationships to disclose. I wish I did.

—University of Chicago graduate student Tim Fessenden, introducing his talk on the dynamic multicellular mechanics at play in the tumor microenvironment

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