Originally published August 11, 2021
Robert Dreicer, MD, MS, MACP, FASCO
I was only 16 years old when the National Cancer Act of 1971 was signed into law, and I must admit that during my long career in academic medical oncology, I have paid scant attention to the implications of this legislation until recently. The publicity now surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Act has led me to ponder both its ramifications for my own career and the paradigm-shifting effect it has had on oncologic practice. As a urologic medical oncologist, I have witnessed the sometimes-breathtaking transformative impact of “next-generation” immunotherapy on some patients with advanced renal and urothelial cancers. The long journey to the regulatory approval and broad utilization of “first-generation” immune checkpoint inhibitors took many decades and countless contributions of basic, translational, and clinical investigators, many of whom benefited from the downstream impact on funding of both basic and clinical research derived from the National Cancer Act. The funding that supported the National Cancer Act led to the establishment of new cancer centers, research databases, funding opportunities for basic and translational research, and the National Clinical Trials Network.
My own journey from oncologic training to my career as an academic clinical investigator provided me with the opportunity to both witness and participate in the slow and, at times, plodding evolution of immunotherapeutics in both clinical and clinical research settings.