A rallying point for cancer research
by Jim Cirigliano  |  Email the author


WASHINGTON, D.C.óMore than 18,000 researchers convened in the nation's capital April 6-10 to participate in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2013, which featured presentations of the latest science and most exciting recent discoveries in cancer research.  
The theme for this year's meeting was "Personalizing Cancer Care Through Discovery Science," celebrating the accelerated pace of discoveries in basic, translational and clinical cancer research due in large part to the availability of new technologies.   The meeting took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., with an exhibit show running April 7-10.
Programs included invited talks by a roster of hundreds of renowned speakers and more than 6,000 proffered papers from the world's top cancer researchers.  
The programming aimed to cover all aspects of cancer research. The program for the Annual Meeting 2013 was organized into topic and organ site tracks to help attendees to navigate such a comprehensive agenda.  
Exhibits and poster sessions filled the lower level of the convention center with constant activity. Exhibitors included a range of companies with products and services related to laboratory and clinical research. Special areas of interest on the exhibit floor included a nonprofit section and an area for research publishers.  
The forum provided a valuable opportunity for members of the worldwide cancer research community to learn, interact, and collaborate with one another. The exhibits and poster sessions in close proximity contributed significantly to the educational value of the meeting.  
"Our focus is on the industry rather than the academic audience, but we set up great meetings and collaborations," said Reny Aniline, director of sales and marketing for Asuragen Inc. "Everyone in cancer is here."  
"We're pleased with the amount of traffic to our booth," said R&D Systems' key account manager, Jennifer Souvignier. "In fact, we ran out of literature. It's not just people showing up to take papers; we've had a lot of good conversations about the science."
There was more in store for AACR meeting attendees during the early part of their week. On April 8, just outside the convention center, several thousand demonstrators rallied to call on the nation's policymakers to prioritize medical research funding. Officially dubbed the Rally for Medical Research, organized by the AACR, the rally's specific call to action was to spur Congress to spare the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) from the mandatory budget cuts brought about by the sequestration. The NIH lost $1.6 billion in federal funding for medical research when sequestration cuts went into effect on March 1.  
The AACR closed down its annual meeting to join nearly 200 partnering organizations on the Carnegie Library grounds at Mt. Vernon Square in downtown Washington. AACR meeting attendees were encouraged to participate; those who did were joined by cancer patients, physicians and advocates from around the country looking to voice their support of sustained investment in the NIH's medical research.
Speakers featured at the rally included Rockefeller University President Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, AACR CEO Dr. Margaret Foti, U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and former Congressman John Porter (R-Ill.), along with several survivors and patient advocates. ABC News political analyst and National Public Radio (NPR) senior news analyst Cokie Roberts served as the rally's emcee.
"Listening to the patient advocates was really touching," says Tabitha Bauman, a spokesperson for Rockland Immunochemicals. "They had amazing stories, which were probably the highlight of the whole event."
The AACR's Annual Meeting 2014 is scheduled for April 5-9, 2014 in San Diego.                          
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