Dr. Brian J. Druker: The Future of Cancer Is in Personalized Prevention and Detection

Dr. Brian J. Druker: The Future of Cancer Is in Personalized Prevention and Detection

Dr. Brian J. Druker accepts the Science of Oncology Award.
The future of cancer lies not just with better therapies, but with personalized prevention and detection using the same molecular techniques that enabled the development of targeted therapies, Brian J. Druker, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University, the recipient of the 2017 Science of Oncology Award, said.

Speaking during the Plenary Session on June 4, Dr. Druker, who was instrumental in the development of one of the first targeted therapies, imatinib, highlighted the hurdles he faced in bringing the tyrosine-kinase inhibitor to market, particularly the skepticism from others in the field who were sure that a single-agent therapy for cancer would never work.

But the drug, which ignited a revolution of precision medicine in cancer, “shows what can be accomplished by believing in a better way,” he said.

Now, he stressed, the field needs to focus not only on better cancer treatments, but on finding ways to treat the disease earlier using “precision early detection.” This requires expanding the molecular knowledge of cancer pathogenesis to detect disease that will become lethal and distinguish it from nonlethal abnormalities that don’t require treatment.

“It’s going to require incredible amounts of resources, from technology to biology to understanding populations and stratifying high-risk groups that might need more vigorous investigation,” he said.

Yet there is no roadmap, just as there was no roadmap when he developed imatinib. It requires faith.

“I have faith that there are things we can accomplish that are bigger than ourselves,” Dr. Druker said. “I have faith that we can accomplish so much more by working together. And I have faith that if we put the right elements as our primary goal—better outcomes and better treatments for our patients—together we can accomplish remarkable things.”  

–Debra Gordon, MS