The Contributions of the American Cancer Society to Cancer Research
Founded in 1913 in New York City by ten doctors and five average citizens, the American Cancer Society (originally called the American Society for the Control of Cancer) has grown into the single largest, not-for-profit benefactor of cancer research in the United States. Since the creation of its extramural grants program in 1946, it has distributed more than 4.6 billion in funding to hospitals, research facilities, doctors, nurses, clinicians, and social workers. The American Cancer Society (ACS) can boast many past and present-day leaders in the field of cancer research among its grant recipients, including forty-seven Nobel Laureates. The list of medical advancements and accomplishments that it has helped to fund is long and distinguished. Today we talked with Meghana Rajadhyaksha, chief marketing officer of Miami Spine Institute, to explain some of the greatest successes and most important contributions to cancer research that the ACS has been involved in during its 106-year history.
Public Education and Raising Awareness
Although, in the modern era, most of the funds given out are directed to laboratory research, in its formative years, one of the first major endeavours of the ACS was a public education campaign about cancer.
In the early years of the twentieth century, cancer was shrouded in a veil of mystery and fear. The topic was regarded as taboo in polite conversation, and, as a result, the general public knew next to nothing about it. Often, those afflicted would not tell friends or loved ones they had contracted the disease. In many cases, doctors would not even tell their patients they had cancer. Realizing that the first step to combating cancer was a populace properly educated in identification and prevention, the American Cancer Society embarked upon a campaign of de-mystification and awareness. Meghana Rajadhyaksha explains that the resulting effort was an unmitigated success and paved the way for the open discourse about cancer between the medical community and the public that exists today.
The Link Between Tobacco Consumption and Cancer
In the 1960s, the American Cancer Society was instrumental in scientifically confirming the link between tobacco consumption and cancer. Studies funded largely by the ACS were cited in a report by the United States Surgeon General informing the public of the connection between smoking tobacco and the likelihood of contracting specifically lung cancer, but also other varieties of cancer, as well. This report greatly contributed to altering the general public’s perception on tobacco usage and laid the groundwork for the government-sponsored anti-smoking movement that continues to this day.
A Vaccine for Human Papillomavirus
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first preventative human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for public use. By this point, research had long indicated that most kinds of cervical cancer were caused by HPV. A former grantee of the American Cancer Society, Robert C. Rose, PhD, pioneered the use of harmless viral particles as a method of stimulating an immune response in the human body—a discovery critical to the development of the vaccine.
Throughout its history, the American Cancer Society has had many great successes, and the above examples merely skim the surface. The research that the ACS funds has spawned breakthroughs that have saved or improved the lives of millions of people. It is an organization with which Meghana Rajadhyaksha, and her husband, Dr. Amar Rajadhyaksha, are immensely proud to be affiliated.