ASCO Sits Down with NCI Director During Annual Meeting

Dr. Julie Gralow Leads Q&A with Dr. W. Kimryn Rathmell
June 4, 2024

ASCO held a media briefing on June 2, 2024, with NCI Director W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, FASCO, who sat down with ASCO Medical Director Julie Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO.

During the briefing, Dr. Rathmell discussed a wide range of topics, including the role of artificial intelligence in advancing cancer research, the National Cancer Plan, and more.

Regarding the role of AI in advancing cancer research, Dr. Rathmell called the new technology “a computational advance that is revolutionizing everything we do” and pointed to a new study that shows how using routine clinical data can predict whether someone’s cancer will respond to immune checkpoint inhibitors as one such example. (The study, published June 3 in Nature Cancer, was led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.)

She also praised the National Cancer Plan for engaging stakeholders and advocates across the board and making sure everyone is on the same page.

“I think one of the biggest successes of the plan is that people are recognizing where it has power and are using it and talking about it,” said Dr. Rathmell, who shared she was thrilled to see people on social media talking about the plan- particularly patients.

Regarding the new collaboration between ASCO and the American Cancer Society, Dr. Rathmell called it a “fantastic effort” because it recognizes the importance of information and helping people manage their care. ACS and ASCO are uniting to make it simpler for patients to find authoritative cancer information by creating one of the largest and most comprehensive online resources for free, credible cancer information on cancer.org.

When asked what excites her the most about the future of cancer research, Dr. Rathmell said she’s looking forward to the “sea change” in the ways people think and talk about research. She also touched on her NCI Director’s Address from Opening Session.

During that talk, Dr. Rathmell shared her vision for making cancer a manageable disease, with effective treatments accessible to all.

"We’ve made significant progress in the past three decades, thanks to many of you here today," she said. “During this time, cancer mortality decreased by one-third, and we’ve seen breakthroughs like tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes for solid tumors and new targeted therapies, and countless more.

“But I am impatient for faster progress. I’m sure we all are.”

Dr. Rathmell was also part of a discussion with NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, titled, How and Where Will Public Investment Accelerate in Oncology?

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