Thanks to Relay for Life, cancer fight makes progress

This weekend, the largest annual one-day fundraiser in Morrison County, the Relay for Life, was held. For more than 20 years, this fundraiser has been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research.

This year, almost 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. An estimated 585,720 Americans will die of the disease. That’s why events like the Relay for Life are so important. People come back year after year, donating and walking for a cause that affects virtually every family, and thus everyone of us.

We fully expect that within the next 10 or 20 years, deaths from cancer will disappear in the same way that deaths from smallpox and polio went away generations ago. Breakthroughs are occurring every week, it seems.

Among the many symposiums held in April when the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) held its convention were these:

• A 4-year-old with leukemia saw his condition improve after he came down with chicken pox, leading researchers to research more deeply the effect of viruses on cancers of all types.

• A T-cell transfer immunotherapy is making some grapefruit-size tumors whither away to nothing.

• Researchers are very excited that the PD-1 molecule will provide a way to activate an immune response to lung cancer.

• Researchers are focusing on the MDC1 protein as a promising target for a vaccine to prevent colorectal cancer.

Other presentations at the AACR convention went from the results of studies on cell cycle proteins to the role of vegetable consumption in cancer prevention.

Because cancer strikes humans in so many different ways, in so many different parts of the body with so many different kinds of tumors, it may never be a situation where a single breakthrough will finally crush cancer. But as the statistics above suggest, the chances of surviving cancer are better than ever.

As long as we keep funding the research, those odds will keep getting better. We hope the day will come when we no longer need to hold Relays for Life. But in the meantime, we can only say thank you on behalf of the entire community for all the time and money the participants contribute each year to bring us ever closer to the goal of crushing cancer forever.