On January 17 and 18, 2024 more than 400 distinguished cancer center directors, executives, scientists, researchers, experts, academics, authors, journalists, political and public officials, philosophers, ethicists, activists gathered for the third annual Nixon National Cancer Conference at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.
Annette Walker, President of City of Hope – Orange County, delivered opening remarks emphasizing the continuing impact of the National Cancer Act and recognizing that “President Nixon would be astounded to know that today we can celebrate 18 million cancer survivors in the United States.”
Dr. Douglas Lowy, Principal Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute, gave a keynote highlighting a program created as a direct result of the National Cancer Act called SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results). This program jointly administered by the NCI and the CDC has developed the best database in the world for cancer research and continues to have potential for coordination of research worldwide.
The opening evening included the presentation of the inaugural Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach Award to Dr. William Li, a distinguished physician, scientist, speaker, author, and founder of the nonprofit Angiogenesis Foundation. Dr. Li was recognized for his outstanding contributions to cancer treatment in changing lives, prolonging lives and saving lives. The award recognizes individuals whose work has significantly impacted cancer research and treatment, alleviated suffering, extended and saved lives, and whose visionary outlook continues to be a source of inspiration.
Marlene Malek, Vice Chair and Co-Founder of Friends of Cancer Research and a member of the Richard Nixon Foundation Board of Directors, introduced Dr. Li while Dr. von Eschenbach presented him the Award. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Li remarked that the Nixon National Cancer Conference helps bring cutting-edge science into practice.
Nixon Foundation President & CEO Jim Byron, Dr. William Li, Nixon Foundation Board Director Marlene Malek, Friends of Cancer Research Chairperson Dr. Ellen Sigal, and Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach.
Concluding the conference kickoff, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, former Director of the National Cancer Institute, encapsulated the vision of the Nixon National Cancer Conference by stating:
“If President Nixon were here he would be very proud of the fact we have gathered together at his place and we are beginning to understand the fruition of his ambition and his dream to change the life of cancer patients. He would be proud of the fact that we are bringing together new insights, new advances and new breakthroughs that are not only going to build on yesterday but actually create a new tomorrow—where ending that suffering and death that we’ve seen, not just from cancer but from all diseases using cancer as a model, will be something we can realize in our lifetime.”
Four interesting and informative panels convened on January 18, 2024 to explore the latest developments in cancer care and research.
Panel 1: AI Revolution in Oncology: Transforming Care
Peter Pisters, MD, moderator- President of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Douglas Flora, MD, LSSBB, FACCC– Executive Medical Director Oncology Services Editor-in-Chief of AI in Precision Oncology
Clifford Hudis, MD, FACP, FASCO- Chief Executive Officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Edward S. Kim, MD, MBA, FACP, FASCO- Vice Physician-in-Chief and Professor, City of Hope National Medical Center, Physician-in-Chief and Senior Vice President, City of Hope Orange County, and the Construction Industries Alliance City of Hope Orange County Physician-in-Chief Chair
Andrew Trister, MD, PhD- Chief Scientific Officer at Verily
Advancements in artificial intelligence are changing the world at a rapid pace that is both exciting and terrifying. In this panel, participants discussed both the clinical care and research applications of this evolving technology.
Key takeaways from the panel included:
- Framing the way we view AI is important- are these tools co-pilots or replacements?
- Prioritize preserving the patient and physician relationship
Strategic short-term and long-term thinking- what crises can AI tools solve today?
- In the research field, AI presents a call to action to standardize data collection
- The development of AI can be viewed as a natural evolution in research like the development of the National Cancer Act in 1971 called on using the tools and knowledge available at the time to make a difference on the fight against cancer
Panel 2: Precision Oncology- Tailored Care for Better Outcomes
Mauro Ferrari, PhD, moderator- Former President, European Research Council President and CEO, BrYet US; Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Washington
Christina Annunziata, MD, PhD– Senior Vice President of Extramural Discovery Science at the American Cancer Society
Sourat Darabi, PhD, MS- Director of Precision Oncology for Hoag’s Center for Applied Genomic Technologies at Hoag Family Cancer Institute
Linda Malkas, PhD– Dean, Translational Science, External Affairs; M.T. & B.A. Ahmadinia Professor in Molecular Oncology, City of Hope
The development of precision oncology has revolutionized the approach to cancer treatments over the past twenty years. This panel recognized the successes while analyzing what has fallen short in the systemic approach to cancer care.
Key takeaways included:
- The individualized therapy method of delivering the right medicine to the right person at the right time has made inroads in successfully battling cancer
- Translation of research—to ability to take what is learned in the lab and apply it to patients—continues to develop
- Access and availability are hurdles to overcome in delivering precision care
- Cancer research has evolved from searching for one magic bullet to cure cancer to many magic bullets (combination therapy)
The luncheon keynote featured a discussion between Joan Lunden, award-winning journalist, author and breast cancer survivor, and Dr. Julie Louise Gerberding, President and CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. This conversation explored the potential from combining public and private institutions to advance research, the importance considering the patient perspective and current challenges in the health care system in America.
Panel 3: The Gut Microbiome in Oncology: A Catalyst for Research and Innovation
Marcel van den Brink, MD, PhD, moderator- President of City of Hope Cancer Center and National Medical Center, Chief Physician Executive and the Deana and Steve Campbell Chief Physician Executive Distinguished Chair
Sunny Jain– Founder and CEO of Floré by Sun Genomics
William W. Li, MD– New York Times bestselling author of “Eat to Beat Disease” and Chief Executive Officer and President of The Angiogenesis Foundation
Elizabeth R. Raskin, MD– Surgical Director for the Margolis Family Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Program, part of the Hoag Digestive Health Institute
Awareness that the gut microbiome plays an important role in whether we might develop cancer, how we will respond to treatment and if cancer will recur is a growing focus of cancer care and research. This panel talked about advances in cancer care that are developing from viewing food as medicine and taking an integrative approach to treatment.
Key takeaways included:
- Cancer treatment has evolved to think beyond targeting a tumor to get to root causes
- General principles for good gut health lead to lower body inflammation and reduce the effects of the stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis
- The food as medicine approach needs to be an established part of cancer care
- More funding needs to be dedicated for gut microbiome research
Panel 4: Navigating the Patient Journey: Insights and Impact
Joan Lunden, moderator- award-winning journalist, author and breast cancer survivor
Chris Draft– international lung cancer advocate and twelve year NFL linebacker
Edward Nelson, MD– Chief Hematology/Oncology Division Professor, Dept. of Medicine, School of Medicine and Dept. of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences University of California, Irvine
Lilibeth Torno, MD– Medical Director of Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC and Chief of Pediatric Oncology at CHOC and UCI
A cancer diagnosis changes lives in an instant. This panel addressed how patients and their support networks can better navigate this journey through a holistic approach to lead to better outcomes.
Key takeaways included:
- Advocacy for equal access to care and education about cancer prevention and care need to be increased to increase survivorship
- Having a support network is a key component of cancer treatment
- A multidisciplinary approach, such as bringing together the scientific researchers with engineers, should be utilized to improve patient care
- A patient-centric approach, treating the whole person not just the tumor, is key to successful oncology care
First convened at the Nixon Library on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971, the Nixon National Cancer Conference is an annual commitment by the Richard Nixon Foundation to honoring the past, addressing the present, and shaping the future of cancer research and care.
Save the date for next year’s conference: January 15 and 16, 2025.
Grateful thanks to those who made possible the 2024 Nixon National Cancer Conference.
City of Hope – Orange County
Hoag Family Cancer Institute
Additional funding provided by
Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
CHOC – Children’s Hospital of Orange County
Farmers and Merchants Bank Foundation
2024 Conference Leadership
Anna Barker, PhD
Melanie Eisenhower, MS, CCLS
William Li, MD
Marlene Malek, RN
James V. Mazzo
Ellen Sigal, PhD
Andrew von Eschenbach, MD
Honorary Congressional Host Committee
Hon. Jim Baird
Hon. Stephanie Bice
Hon. Earl L “Buddy” Carter
Hon. Joni Ernst
Hon. Brian Fitzpatrick
Hon. Lance Gooden
Hon. Josh Gottheimer
Hon. French Hill
Hon. Young Kim
Hon. Angus S. King, Jr.
Hon. Michael Waltz
Hon. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Hon. Bruce Westerman
Hon. Roger Williams
Hon. Joe Wilson