With the National Cancer Act of 1971, the United States established an integrated system of organizational constituents to focus on the cancer burden in the country.1 The legislation broadened the scope of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the authority of its leadership to design and implement a National Cancer Program, inclusive of other national research institutes and various federal and non-federal programs. In addition to funding 15 additional cancer research centers, local control programs, and an international cancer research data bank, the legislation also established the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP).2
The PCP consists of three members appointed by the President to advise the Administration on the status of the National Cancer Program and identify barriers to further development. The PCP chair, John P. Williams, MD, FACS, a breast cancer surgeon practicing in northern Virginia, is focused on improving outcomes and addressing disparities in cancer care. A strong patient advocate for both education and screening, he founded the Breast Cancer School for Patients, a video-based cancer education platform. The ACR’s leaders and members have benefited from his wise counsel and strong leadership by example, striving to achieve patient-focused, equitable healthcare in a transparent system.
The PCP works independently of the NCI, advocating for research support across all the National Institutes of Health, and promoting participation in clinical research that ought to be a part of the standard of care for cancer — culminating in cancer treatment guideline development by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.3,4 The PCP’s 2012 recommendation to increase states’ access
to HPV vaccination services through administration by pharmacists has been implemented in 39 states and the District of Columbia as of 2018.5 Their 2016 recommendation to the Federal Communications Commission to expand broadband internet access for patients to access health information helped facilitate considerable improvement, decreasing the number of Americans without
broadband internet access by 45% as of 2019.6
In 2020, the PCP identified cancer screening as “an essential issue that will need additional support and innovation,” citing early detection as a critical factor to positive outcomes. Given the delay and decline in cancer screening that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 10,000 extra deaths from breast and colon cancer have been predicted.7
Research inclusive of historically marginalized populations and focused attention on improving access to prevention, screening and treatment stand to improve patient outcomes and population health.
The economic impact of cancer is no less impressive. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than 1.7 million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer and nearly 600,000 people die from cancer annually. The cost of cancer is projected to exceed $240 billion by 2030.8 Research inclusive of historically marginalized populations and focused attention on improving access to prevention, screening, and treatment stand to improve patient outcomes and population health. In a recent online publication of Radiology: Imaging Cancer, five modalities were cited as game-changers in the war against cancer since the National Cancer Act legislation: CT, MRI, PET, optical imaging and microscopy, and ultrasound.9
Advocacy and economics remain the cornerstones of the ACR’s member- and patient-focused efforts. Leveraging these strengths to benefit society, as well as our profession, is the lynchpin for establishing and preserving public trust — fundamental to the ACR’s stated mission and vision. In supporting equitable cancer screening and advocating for its sustainability across aging, underrepresented, and marginalized populations, the ACR is well-positioned to champion this cause — not only in commemoration of the National Cancer Act’s recent golden anniversary, but in proud recognition of our specialty’s contributions as we prepare to celebrate the ACR’s centennial.